In its 19th Amendment to the Chaffee Local Public Health Order, the Board of Public Health (aka the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners) has updated the county’s directive in response to the surprise move late last week by the Centers For Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) to drop facemask requirements for vaccinated individuals.
It is that “facemask requirements for vaccinated individuals” that is the important phrase.
Effective today, the Chaffee Public Health Order 2020-08 Amendment #19, modifies the indoor mask requirement to align with the state and current scientific stance. The order now allows vaccinated individuals to go without any type of face-covering in most settings. But individuals 11 years or older, who are still unvaccinated are still encouraged to wear a face-covering within indoor spaces where members of different households are present.
As many counties are doing, it closely follows the state’s revised public health order. In making the changes, which were discussed by the Chaffee Leadership Roundtable at 8:o0 a.m. this morning, Chaffee County leadership strongly reiterated the following:
- It continues to promote vaccinations as the most important action individuals can take to help to return to more of a normal pre-COVID daily life.
- Areas, where facemasks must still be worn, include; K-12 schools and childcare centers, congregate care facilities such as assisted living facilities, prisons and jails, most healthcare settings, and for staff within the Department of Motor Vehicles offices.
- Chaffee County supports any business, organization, or individual that elects to require face coverings and implement other COVID precautions within their facilities that are more restrictive than the current Public Health Order. For instance, if a business says that no one who isn’t wearing a facemask, or those who aren’t vaccinated aren’t welcome on their premises, they have the right to enforce their rules or ask if a person is vaccinated. (Health Information Privacy “HIPPA” laws do not apply to private businesses.)
- Schools are continuing to follow the CDC guidance. Kids 10 and under don’t have to wear masks. The school mask mandate applies to 11 and older. Outside of schools, unvaccinated youth 11 and older are recommended to wear masks.
“Yesterday we added the bullet point of being respectful of what the business you are entering is choosing to do – business will take this in lots of different directions,” said Commissioner Greg Felt. “We want you to STOP –to look at the place you’re entering and what they expect. Masks aren’t gone yet.”
The county is keeping its 65 percent capacity guideline for indoor spaces for now and outdoor events are capped at 2,000. All capacity standards are going to be reviewed regularly. The county has three general event sizes; small, medium, and large, with public health plans required for larger events. The county is encouraging the municipalities to follow the same standard.
If there is an outbreak in the county, the rules are the same, “individuals are required to work with public health on outbreaks – the things you’ve seen for months are still in there,” said Deputy Public Health Director Emily Anderson. Her caution is based on fact: Colorado is one of the highest states in the nation for incidences of COVID, which may or may not be due to the fact that the state conducts more rigorous testing.
“Emily touched on the question of asking whether people are vaccinated,” said EMS Director Josh Hadley. “I want to make it clear to those businesses that they can ask – HIPPA doesn’t apply to them — they have the right to ask. It will be an honor system, but making that available to them is important.”
Commissioners are concerned about people’s behavior around mask-wearing. “We need to underscore that wearing a mask, the precautions they take is up to that individual, should be respected,” said Commissioner Keith Baker. “There are people who get confrontational when they see a person wearing a mask and that’s just not acceptable…it’s also a business’s choice. It’s private property; they get to set their standards for their customers.”
“I appreciate Josh Hadley’s comment that businesses have the right to request to ask if people have been vaccinated,” said Commissioner Rusty Granzella.
Chaffee Code of Conduct
In addition to updating the face coverings requirements, the Chaffee County’s Public Health Order emphasizes the “Chaffee County COVID Code of Conduct” for all Chaffee County residents and visitors as a part of the community’s ongoing COVID response:
- Get vaccinated
- Stay home if sick
- Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
- Wash your hands
- Respect the COVID-19 safety protocols for any individual business or organization
- Physically distance if unvaccinated, and
- Wear a mask indoors and in crowded outdoors spaces if unvaccinated.
“The lifting of the mask mandate in Chaffee County and across Colorado is welcome news to some, while anxiety-provoking for others,” said Anderson. “We have been through an incredibly challenging 15 months, and as we slowly transition back to normal I ask that everyone is patient and kind to friends, neighbors, strangers, and business owners as we all decide what feels right to each of us within the updated regulations and guidance.”
Where to Get Vaccinated
There are many convenient options available for those who haven’t received a vaccine yet. COVID-19 vaccinations are available at several providers across Chaffee County.
Chaffee County Public Health holds weekly clinics at the CCPH offices at 448 East First Street, Salida, that are open to the general public on Thursdays, 5:00-6:30 p.m. (utilizing Moderna vaccine, 18 years+) and on Fridays, 9:00-11:00 a.m. (utilizing Pfizer vaccine, 12 years+ and Johnson & Johnson vaccine 18+ years).
A walk-up vaccination clinic is scheduled for Friday, May 21st at the Salida Middle School, 520 Milford Street, Salida. Pfizer vaccine is available for anyone ages 12+ or Johnson & Johnson for anyone ages 18+. Any child under 18 must have a parent/guardian with them OR a parent/guardian’s signature on their paperwork.
A current list of all providers offering COVID vaccines can be accessed at http://bit.ly/ChaffeeVaccines.