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Eagle County on Wednesday issued the following press release on the extension of a public health order requiring face masks in schools and child care settings where there are large numbers of unvaccinated children:
The public health order that requires masks in schools and child care settings will be extended to October 29 or until the community case incidence rate is maintained below 50 cases per 100,000 for seven consecutive days. At that point, mask requirements in these settings will be relaxed to a recommendation and the order will be modified accordingly.
This order continues to require masks for students, staff, and visitors while indoors at schools where there are large numbers of youth that are not yet eligible for vaccination against COVID-19 (e.g. k-5, k-8 or k-12). In schools with only youth that are eligible for vaccination (e.g. 9-12 grade), masks will remain recommended given the high rates of vaccination among these age groups. Although not immediately covered in this extension, Eagle County Public Health and Environment officials have signaled possible revisions for children under the age of five years given their heavy reliance on seeing facial queues as part of their social, emotional, and physical development. The order, which only pertains to masks, will be available online and take effect on Wed., Sept. 15. Any developments and the updated case incidence rates are available on eaglecountycovid.org.
Public Health officials continue to work closely with leadership from schools throughout Eagle County tracking case trends and communicating with families’ risk and prevention measures to support schools remaining open for in-person learning. The school year started with the challenge of a much higher amount of COVID-19 transmission in the community as compared to the 2020/2021 school year.
“The community goal of keeping our youth in school is still high on our priority list,” said Heath Harmon, Director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment. “Reaching a lower COVID-19 incidence will help support this priority. Fortunately we are moving in the right direction as the community spread has been decreasing over the past week. However, the incidence is still as high now as it was when the order was originally implemented last month.”
Public Health officials noted that this decision remains difficult given the elevated concerns among community members, both for and against mask requirements. “Our intention continues to be focused on finding common ground and considering different perspectives,” said Harmon. “Currently, one of the largest health risks to our youth comes from missing school. We continue to hear from parents and our behavioral health providers that the most important thing we can do is keep youth in schools and ensure they have continued access to extracurricular activities that support their social and emotional needs. This is our common ground and the reason for this action.”