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Spring-breakers, the message is clear: if you’re visiting Chaffee County, wear your facemasks.

As the country reflects on one year of the COVID-19 pandemic and having achieved Level Blue on the state’s COVID-19 Dial, local concerns are growing as spring break is on the horizon. The City of Salida reports hearing that tourists and out-of-town visitors may refuse to wear masks, even though Colorado has a facemask mandate in effect. New signage has gone up across the city and county, in hopes that visitors will respect the mandate,

Those who attended Chaffee County’s weekly COVID Roundtable heard both Mayor Wood and City Administrator Drew Nelson express concerns regarding the potential lack of mask-wearing people heading into the county.

Towns such as Crested Butte have started using ambassadors to monitor tourists and make sure they continue to follow the mask mandate. This is a cautionary tale for Chaffee County, as Crested Butte has a large number of second homeowners from Texas and a large number of visitors to our county during spring break season are also from Texas. On March 10, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the end of the state’s mask mandate and plans to allow businesses to fully reopen in Texas. But Texas still has low vaccination statistics and COVID variants are increasing.

Image courtesy City of Salida.

Ark Valley Voice spoke with Nelson on the matter and he explained “Through discussions, I’ve had with many other mountain community managers and administrators, we are all very concerned about the difference between Colorado’s rules and the rules in place where some of our Spring Break travelers are coming from.”

He continued “In addition, nearby counties are dropping their compliance with state guidance on mask-wearing and other best practices despite not reaching levels of vaccination that would be expected in order to begin doing so.”

“While we continue to work hard on vaccination in Chaffee County, we need to remain diligent on the five principles (masks, hand washing, social distancing, staying home when sick, and getting tested) to get us over this last hill,” he added.  “No one wants to be the person that dies on the last day of a war, and we are very close to ending this one against COVID-19.”