Wednesday, August 5, 2020

CB council makes masks mandatory on Elk Ave

Order goes into effect July 10

By Mark Reaman

A town health order requiring that masks be worn outside on the street as well as inside buildings in the core part of Crested Butte’s business district will be implemented for Elk Avenue beginning this Friday, July 10 at 6 a.m.

The Crested Butte Town Council voted 7-0 to ask town manager Dara MacDonald to sign such an order at the Monday, July 6 meeting. It will apply from Sixth to First Streets and will also include the two half blocks of Third Street that intersect Elk. Bike riders and those in vehicles are exempt, so basically the action expands the current county health order to include pedestrians and bench loungers hanging outside in the core of Crested Butte.

Council brought up the issue during a review of the reconfigured Elk Avenue discussion. It was mentioned that during busy times, Elk Avenue is packed and social distancing of at least six feet is impossible. Social distancing is one of the key practices used to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

There was discussion to perhaps limit the order from late morning until late evening but MacDonald said if the council was intent on taking the action it would be cleaner and less confusing to just require masks all the time.

“This seems to be a sticking point since it is hard to walk down Elk Avenue when many times you can’t be six feet away from others to properly social distance,” said council member Mallika Magner.

“We need to explain and be clear about why we are doing this,” said mayor Jim Schmidt, who told the council that county officials had no problem with the council designating a part of town a mandatory mask zone.

“Elk Avenue can get very congested so people should wear a mask. It should help businesses by keeping the order uniform for everyone,” noted Schmidt.

MacDonald agreed that issuing an order instead of a recommendation would take the burden off businesses having to explain why customers should wear masks.

“There are times trying to walk the street and you have to pass large family groups not wearing masks,” said council member Laura Mitchell. “It isn’t always easy. Something needs to be done.”

“I have always deferred to Joni Reynolds [Gunnison County public health officer] and her expertise,” said council member Mona Merrill. “This is hard to think about laying down more rules right now. I’m not on Elk a lot so I don’t see the crowds but I do want to keep the town safe.”

Town attorney Barbara Green said issuing an order instead of a recommendation was the best path forward. “If you make a zone where masks are required, it is better coming as an order from the town manager,” she said. “There is no confusion about people estimating how far away they are from someone and trying to decide whether to put on their face covering.”

Council member Will Dujardin said he would prefer the order came from the council and not the town manager. “This is something we should be doing ourselves if we want this to happen,” he said.

Schmidt agreed it was appropriate for the council to originate the order and to ask MacDonald to sign it as the person with emergency authority for such measures, given the coronavirus situation.

Magner made the motion to instruct the town manager to order Elk Avenue from the Four-way Stop to First Street as a mandatory mask zone. Those in vehicles and bike riders would not be required to be wearing masks in the zone. The motion passed unanimously.

“Seeing how the numbers in Texas and Florida are spiking, it feels like this needs to be done here,” said Schmidt.

MacDonald said the county has been supplying the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce with masks and this would probably mean more would be needed.

Stephanie Sandstrom of the chamber said while the supply at the Visitors Center was low, a new shipment of about 1,000 masks was expected Thursday. The order will be in effect through September 30.

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