Eagle County Commissioners: Uncovering our approach to masks | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Commissioners: Uncovering our approach to masks

Jeanne McQueeney, Matt Scherr and Kathy Chandler-Henry
Valley Voices

Buffs. Bandanas. Neck gaiters. Scarves. Non-medical face coverings. Whatever you’re wearing, we’re glad you are. We are hearing daily from our community members about our approach to masks. Eagle County’s public health order regarding COVID-19 strongly encourages face coverings when in a business or other enclosed public space. It requires their use in certain instances where 6 feet of distance can’t be maintained for a prolonged period of time. 

Eagle County has broad authority to protect public safety during an emergency, but this is not a tool we use lightly. In the case of masks, rather than making them mandatory in every public place, we are relying on our community’s culture of caring for each other and setting an example for our visitors.

As we keep having to remind ourselves, this is a novel virus and our understanding of it changes constantly. But there is current widespread agreement among public health authorities that face coverings may help prevent the spread of COVID-19, certainly more than what it may cost us to wear them.

Various communities are trying other strategies to achieve our shared objective of widespread mask use. Those include absolute requirements for masks when in public, requiring masks when entering a business, and even making no recommendation to the public whatsoever. We communicate regularly with our peers in similar, nearby communities to share our experiences with each strategy. To-date those conversations suggest that compliance with a mask goal is more related to community cohesion, meaning residents’ commitment to one another, as well as strong communication about mask policy.

Eagle County’s success so far has been due in part to our community’s success in following our Five Commitments of Containment. But our guests are not familiar with our goals, strategies, and commitments. So as we begin to welcome guests back to Eagle County, we believe we have a much greater opportunity to reach them through new, more targeted messages to help keep themselves and our community as safe and healthy as possible. Watch for this education campaign to roll out soon.

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We will continue to monitor the evolving science and guidance from public health authorities on COVID-19, as well as our own success in achieving our five commitments. If we believe another approach may be more successful, we will adapt our policies accordingly.  

For now, please remember:

  • More than a moment: The spread of COVID-19 is most likely to occur when in close contact with an infected person for periods of time approaching 15 minutes or longer, not from momentary circumstances such as walking past others.
  • Mask up when close: When 6 feet of distance can’t be maintained for a prolonged period of time, again, 15 minutes or longer, a face covering is required.
  • Mask up in public: When entering any place of business or public indoor environment (e.g. retail or grocery store, post office, library, government buildings, theater, etc.).
  • Distance is better than masks: Masks are not required when walking in your neighborhood, or on trails, when you can adequately maintain 6 feet of distance from non-household members.
  • Mask up for others: For those who are not afraid of COVID-19 or don’t want to wear a mask, remember the mask protects others, not yourself.

Because we have inconvenienced ourselves for the sake of our fellow residents, we’ve seen success addressing the disease threat as no other community in the nation has. Though we grow increasingly weary of these burdens on our lives, our actions now will have a lasting effect on reaching our longer-term goals, which range from safely reopening schools to a successful winter season. It will take kindness, respect, personal responsibility — and yes, masks — to get us there. 

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