RGBOCC re-affirms stance on mask mandates

RIO GRANDE COUNTY — The Rio Grande Board of County Commissioners opened their meeting on Feb. 16 with a moment of solidarity for healthcare workers working in nursing homes, especially those who have to wear masks for 15-plus hours per day. 

Rio Grande County Chairman Gene Glover began by asking everyone sitting at the table to put on a mask.

“This is our way of protesting for healthcare workers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities who have to wear masks for eight or more hours, or however long their shifts are inside the building, and we would like to see this gone,” said Glover.

Commissioners and administration staff members immediately removed the masks after the statement was made and moved into regular session beginning with the consent agenda. Over the past two weeks, commissioners and Rio Grande Public Health Department have been in discussions with the Upper Rio Grande School District about the policies surrounding quarantine recommendations from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in an attempt to find a resolution to the issues the recommendation policies have caused at the school district. 

In the meeting held on Feb. 9, commissioners decided to craft a blanket statement and resolution to support the school district in making their own decisions pertaining to quarantine and included it in the consent agenda on Feb. 16. The resolution gives school districts throughout Rio Grande County the authority to navigate the pandemic through best practices according to the district’s needs. 

“Whereas, the Board of County Commissioners of Rio Grande County acknowledge that Rio Grande County Schools have diligently adhered to public health recommendations for safety within the schools, at this time the science is changing daily both locally, state-wide and nationally and now therefore be it resolved that the Board of County Commissioner for Rio Grande County endorse school superintendent’s discretion and ability to incorporate those recommendation which most appropriately fit to keep the school population safe. The Board of County Commissioner of Rio Grande County encourage continued collaboration between public health and schools for the safety of the students but state unequivocally that superintendents of school within Rio Grande County may seek those solutions of choice,” the resolution stated.

At the same time commissioners also re-affirmed their resolution passed in September of 2021, stating that the county will not endorse or allow any mandates that require masks or vaccination status for local establishments throughout the county. Commissioners made a joint statement solidifying the decision and making it clear that all county facilities, schools, businesses, organizations and other establishments including churches could make decisions based on best practices on their own.