It seems that some of Chaffee County’s local leaders have decided not to follow the state’s public health order requiring that facemasks be worn indoors in public spaces and places of business.
During the Poncha Springs Board of Trustees meeting on November 23 in Poncha Town Hall, members of the Board of Trustees, as well as Poncha Springs Mayor Ben Scanga, and Town Administrator Brian Berger could be seen social-distantancing, but did not appear to be wearing facemasks for most of the three-hour meeting. This appears to be at odds with the procedures being followed in other county and municipal meetings, where facemasks are used except when a person is speaking.
Trustee Tom Moore was the only trustee who attended via Zoom in order to follow the current health guidelines, and near the end of the session he shared his concern with his fellow trustees. “The COVID has obviously doubled in the last month. We just received a directive from the commissioners and our health department director today about how we should be conducting our meetings and as a result of that, I’m not there today. I would like to be there in person, I would like to be there. Mayor you made a good point saying we’re more effective when we’re together and there’s no doubt about that, but we have to do what we have to do.”
Moore continued: “The directive says that we should not be conducting a meeting without all being masked up and as a result of that I am not there today. I am respecting your rights and as a result of that, I have to stifle my own participation because you’re not willing to respect my rights … I’m sorry I have to be difficult like this ’cause I want this to go away … because we have a lot of business to do. But people, we just can’t continue to meet together if we’re going to spread this virus together and I’m really sorry that some people are taking the wrong approach to this and not helping us get rid of it.”
Public Health Orders for Facemasks are Statewide
To be clear, the wearing of facemasks is both a statewide public health order and a Chaffee County-wide public health directive
On November 9 Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order requiring the use of face masks which states, “Under Executive Order D 2020 110, mask wearing is mandatory for employees, contractors, and others providing services for Mass Transportation Operations and Critical Businesses as well as for State and county employees and the individuals they serve at Government Offices and Facilities. These requirements remain intact with this Executive Order.”
Chaffee County is still in the Level Yellow “Concern” zone but the following additional restrictions were incorporated from Level Orange on November 19:
- Only necessary events can take place until further notice following the 25 percent or 25 person cap using the distancing calculator if standing, or 6 foot distancing between parties if seated for indoors AND 25 percent or 50 person cap using the distancing calculator if standing or 6 foot distancing for seated for outdoors. In-person events are highly discouraged at this time.
- Non-school related group sports and activities are limited to virtual or outdoors in groups less than 10 with no close contact if there is not a specific sector guidance available. An exemption would be if a group already has a CCPH supported plan in place.
- Personal gathering size is limited to 10 with no more than 2 households indoors or outdoors.
- Group sizes seated together at restaurants or at start/finish areas for sporting events should not exceed more than 6.
- Encouraging remote work and staggered shifts for all business sectors to reduce the number of people working together in-person.
- Except for critical business or critical operations of the county, voluntary 14 day self-quarantine is strongly recommended when unnecessary out of county travel or participation in a risky activity (lack of distancing and mask wearing) occurs, before and after.
- All residents who have engaged in activities that pose risk should seek out testing, especially if becoming symptomatic with any COVID-19 symptom.
Just this past week, in an effort to protect health and the local economy, Chaffee County launched “Chaffee Has Heart” an all-out effort tho help keep our county from sliding into the next extreme risk category, which includes wearing facemasks. On November 23, the Chaffee County Board of health released the video statement:
In a follow up call after the meeting, Town Administrator Brian Berger told Ark Valley Voice, “I can’t speak to why other individuals chose not to wear masks. I can confirm that not everyone was wearing masks the whole time, however a couple were or would when not sitting, distanced from others. But I can say that the room was set up to ensure everyone present was adequately distanced by incorporating additional tables and spacing chairs greater than 6′ apart.
Berger added that all applicants, presenters, and additional staff were requested to attend and present over Zoom, limiting the number of people to less than 10 in a room with a capacity of 136 per fire code. “All Town meetings and events have been canceled through the end of the year, and the need to go entirely remote will be evaluated in January.”