The Basalt Town Council will discuss Tuesday night whether to extend the requirement for face coverings in public beyond June 23 to slow the spread of COVID-19. Elected officials, by resolution, unanimously approved the public health order on face coverings May 1 and later extended it to include the order that continues through Tuesday.
Mayor Bill Kane said that the current metrics of the coronavirus should warrant a consideration of keeping the face mask restriction in place.
“I think it’s most likely we will be extending it for the next 30 days,” he said Monday.
Last week, the city of Aspen passed an extension of its mandatory face covering order through July 15. Aspen City Council members originally put the mandate in place April 27 during a special meeting.
Basalt’s town limits extend into both Pitkin and Eagle counties, both of which were consulted about the council’s original support for face coverings in public, according to Town Manager Ryan Mahoney. Basalt’s requirements closely follow those of Pitkin County, which are more stringent than those of Eagle County.
In Mahoney’s memo to council this week he wrote, “As you know, the public health order for Eagle County strongly recommends the use of face coverings and in some instances requires them for workers who cannot socially distance.
“Pitkin County’s ‘Safer at Home’ order requires face coverings and essentially mirrors the requirement that the council currently has in place. The data that is relevant for this decision is easily found on the ‘dashboards’ that each county provides that reflects the number of cases. That is the indicator that tells us that our social distancing measures are working,” Mahoney stated.
According to information posted on the Pitkin County Public Health website about COVID-19 monitoring as of June 21, the seven-day rolling trend of new cases is an average of two per day. Pitkin County has 80 total cases reported and two deaths.
Eagle County reported eight new cases on June 21, with a seven-day average of three new cases per day. Eagle County had 649 total cases reported and eight deaths as of the report date.
Elected officials in Basalt have been consistent in their view that face coverings remain one tool in the toolbox to help staunch the coronavirus spread. Limiting group size and maintaining six feet of social distancing are the other useful tools and in Mahoney’s memo he noted that if those requirements are eliminated, local authorities could potentially see increased infection.
Mahoney wrote there is still evidence of community spread, “which means that we cannot always trace the source of someone’s infection. We know that the disease is spread through droplets which are transmitted by talking, sneezing and coughing, for example. Face coverings, while not a replacement for distancing, can be effective.”
Police have the ability to issue citations for noncompliance, but as of June 22 no one had been fined for not wearing a mask, said Police Chief Greg Knott. Resolution 24, which adopts an amended public health order on face coverings, allows a fine of up to $50 for the first offense and a penalty not to exceed $200 for a subsequent infraction.
“We did a lot of education with folks in the beginning,” Knott said, when asked about the record of no fines. “It took a few weeks to get the education out there, but now people are complying really well.”
Basalt’s amended face covering ordinance also notes that, “unlike other aspects of county police powers that extend only to unincorporated areas, the public health departments of Eagle County and Pitkin County jurisdiction and authority extends to within the boundaries of the town of Basalt.”