County commissioners buck mask mandate

RBC | In a packed room in Rangely, the Rio Blanco County Board of Commissioners heard opinions from county residents and some local and county officials on the statewide face mask mandate issued last week by Governor Polis. All residents in attendance — who were reportedly invited to attend by at least one commissioner — spoke out against the mandate. Most cited their personal freedom and not wanting to be told what to do. A few expressed concerns that the governor is overstepping his authority in his efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and some said they just didn’t think it was necessary to have a face mask mandate in Rio Blanco County, which has only had six positive cases to date with no deaths from the virus. 

Both town managers said they will do everything they can to support local businesses, some of which are subject to orders from corporate headquarters requiring the use of masks, or who are required to wear masks and have customers wear masks to protect their professional licenses. Mindsprings Health is one such organization, and outpatient program director Michelle Huber said they are offering Zoom meetings with clients who don’t want to wear a mask.

“We have seen numerous outbreaks along northwest Colorado in various offices and have had staff that have been sick with COVID,” Huber said. 

Rio Blanco County Public Health Director Alice Harvey said, “I think one thing we can all agree on, what our entire communities want, is for our schools to open in the fall and our businesses to remain open and thriving.”

“Wearing a cloth face covering does decrease your chance. I’m wearing one today because I’m protecting you. I don’t know if you’re the one person who may have a terrible outcome if you get COVID, and I’m not willing to take that risk,” Harvey said, adding, “I support the commissioners and their decision and their interpretation about the order for our citizens, but from a public health standpoint I will still be encouraging mask use and using the science to back that up.”

Commissioner Si Woodruff acknowledged there are different viewpoints on the handling of the virus: public health and political, and that law enforcement is a separate issue. Commissioners Gary Moyer and Jeff Rector also acknowledged there could be an economic risk from “pushing back” against the state. Rector said there are 13 other counties in the state opposing the mandate. Following some additional comments, Moyer made a motion that Rio Blanco County take an official position to not support the governor’s face mask mandate and to participate with and monitor other counties in Colorado that are opposing the mandates. The motion passed unanimously. 

Earlier Tuesday, the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office issued an announcement that the department will not be enforcing the mandate. 

COVID Funds

In a work session prior to the regular meeting, RBC Finance Director Janae Stanworth said the county has been granted an additional $50,000 in COVID funding and suggested the funds be allocated to cover transportation costs for White River Roundup — the county’s senior meal program — “for a year or so.” The program itself won’t change.

Regular Business

In the regular meeting, the board:

• Approved plans for the Colorado West Barrel Racing and the Meeker Mustang Makeover events. 

• Approved a change to the “managing commissioner” plan limiting the commissioners’ oversight to budget facilitation

• Approved a wage adjustment for landfill operators.

• Awarded a $30,875 bid to Trane U.S., and a $7,233 bid to Midnight Metals for HVAC preventive maintenance. 

• Approved a state-funded grant up to $180,891 to provide behavioral health services at the county detention center. Detention Lt. Mike Reist told the board the services “create a safety net for the detention center.” 

• Changed the wording on Resolution 2020-18 giving the board added authority regarding hiring staff from “selectively freezing” to “monitoring” all employee hiring and promotions.

Executive Session

The board went into executive session to conference with the county attorney. Starr said they would be discussing sales tax issues including the Chevron lawsuit, Robinson, the airports, and a planning issue with the sportsman’s club.


By NIKI TURNER | editor@ht1885.com

2 Comments

  1. I went to two stores in Rangely today and no one was wearing a mask. If I get this disease and bring it home to my wife, she will probably die as she has asthma, diabetes and is immune compromised. If that happens because you are to selfish to do something as simple as wearing a mask, then your god can’t help you. You wear the mask to protect others, and you don’t know if you have it because 50% of the people who have tested positive show no symptoms. These people can infect others.

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