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Vail weighing mandatory mask zone as COVID-19 cases spike across state, nation

October 30, 2020, 6:59 pm

The Town of Vail Friday issued the following press release on the possibility of a mandatory mask zone as COVID-19 cases increase across Colorado and the nation. Following the Vail information, the state also issued a press release Friday underscoring the dire nature of the ongoing pandemic.

The Vail Town Council will review the possibility of authorizing a mandatory mask zone in designated areas of Vail Village and Lionshead as an additional requirement to the Eagle County Public Health order.

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The topic will be discussed during the Tuesday, Nov. 3 virtual Vail Town Council meeting. The discussion topic is listed as item 3.1 on the afternoon agenda with opportunities for public comment.

Council members asked to schedule the policy discussion as it seeks preemptive ways to address the increase in COVID-19 cases across Colorado and other parts of the country.

The town has been working closely with Vail Mountain and other community partners to ensure the safety of Vail’s residents and guests to help keep schools open and deliver a successful ski season from start to finish.

While masks are already required in all indoor spaces per the county public health order, a mandatory mask zone would expand the requirement to outdoor areas in locations designated by the Town Council.

Face coverings are not currently required in an outdoor environment, unless you cannot consistently maintain 6 feet of physical distance from non-household members for 15 minutes or longer.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Eagle County Public Health Director Heath Harmon and Breckenridge Assistant Town Manager Shannon Haynes will share their insights about a possible mandatory mask zone for Vail. Breckenridge has had a mandatory mask zone in place since July. In addition, Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger will be available to answer questions about enforcement.

If Town Council chooses to mandate face coverings in the core of Vail’s villages prior to ski season opening day on Nov. 20, staff will prepare the necessary regulations for the Town Council’s consideration and approval at the Nov. 17 regular council meeting. If adopted, the mandate would likely be effective immediately.

To review a staff memo on this topic, click here. To provide public comment in advance of the meeting, email publicinput.vailtowncouncil@vailgov.com or to register to provide public input during the meeting, visit https://www.vailgov.com/town-council.

Here’s the state press release:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Colorado School of Public Health released an updated modeling report showing that hospitalizations from SARS-CoV-2 continue to increase rapidly across the state. 

On the current epidemic curve, Colorado will likely exceed the April peak in hospitalizations within two weeks. If the epidemic curve is not bent, Colorado could surpass intensive care unit (ICU) capacity in January. If contacts increase over the holidays (for example, due to gatherings between multiple households), ICU capacity could be exceeded in December. As announced by the state last week, gatherings should be limited to no more than 10 people from a maximum of two households. 

“There is a small window to improve transmission control over the next few weeks,” said Dr. Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health. “To limit increasing infections and avoid peaks that could strain healthcare capacity over the next three months, a substantial increase in transmission control is needed.”

The latest modeling provides projections based on COVID-19 hospital census data through October 26, 2020. The models are based on Colorado data and assumptions based on the current state of the science.

Key findings from the report:

  • Hospitalizations continue to rapidly increase. On the current trajectory of the epidemic curve, Colorado will probably hit its highest number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 by November 10, and the limits of ICU capacity may be reached in early to mid-January. If infections increase over the holidays because of gatherings and other reasons for increased contacts among people, ICU capacity could be exceeded in December. 
  • The effective reproductive number is approximately 1.6 (with statistical uncertainty ranging from 1.47 to 1.70 at the 95% confidence level).
  • Approximately 1 in 219 Coloradans are currently infectious (compared to 1 in 292 last week). This implies that the probability of encountering an infected person in the population is higher than it was at any point this summer. This estimate is generated from the model and assumes that not all infectious residents are captured by state surveillance systems.
  • The estimated level of transmission control is currently 65% (for the period of September 28-October 13). Transmission control levels under about 79% will lead to increasing infections and an effective reproductive number greater than 1; and if contact rates are reduced and transmission control is above 79%, infections will decrease.
  • Using an extended modeling approach based on case data, the modeling team estimates transmission control varies significantly by age group, with significant decreases in control levels among all ages over the last month. Individuals aged 20-39 have the highest infectious contact rates (transmission control = 60%), and contact rates have increased among individuals over 65 over recent weeks (transmission control = 76%).

The Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH) assembled the expert group that works with the state on modeling projections. The group includes modeling scientists at the ColoradoSPH and the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, as well as experts from the University of Colorado Boulder, University of Colorado Denver, and Colorado State University. 

All previous modeling reports are available on the Colorado School of Public Health’s COVID-19 website. 

The Colorado modeling team began using a new “transmission control” indicator in mid-October to describe the collective impact of all policies and behaviors on the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Transmission control captures ALL behavioral and policy changes in response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic including mask wearing, physical distancing, improved ventilation, working from home, contact tracing (including both isolation and quarantine), moving activities outside, and any seasonal impact. This approach has the advantage of requiring fewer assumptions and increasing accuracy for the Colorado model. In technical terms, the transmission control parameter describes the percent decrease in effective contacts between infected and susceptible individuals compared to pre-pandemic behavior. 

The state will continue to review data and model findings as the pandemic continues to inform policy decisions. 

Continue to stay up to date by visiting covid19.colorado.gov.

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