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Health and Wellness

Aspen City Council ends its emergency declaration as Pitkin County lifts mask mandate

A KN95 mask and a surgical mask.
Max Posner
A KN95 mask and a surgical mask sit side by side.

The Aspen City Council on Tuesday voted to terminate the emergency declaration it issued March 12, 2020, in response to COVID-19.

The decision came the same day Pitkin County ended its mask mandate after a vote by the county’s board of health.

Masks are still required on RFTA buses, on school buses, inside Aspen Valley Hospital and in the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport — all of which are subject to federal regulations.

Those regulations are set to remain in place through at least March 18.

Individual businesses and venues may also require masks as they see fit.

Aspen City Manager Sara Ott told the City Council in a memo that she no longer needed to “exercise emergency authorities to manage the presence of disease in the community and/or city facilities.”

An emergency declaration from a town or city gives it access to state and federal funds to respond to an emergency.

Aspen’s March 2020 emergency declaration says “the cost and magnitude of responding to and recovery from the impact of COVID-19 is far in excess of the city's available resources.”

It also states that the purpose of the declaration was to “activate the response and recovery aspects of any and all applicable local and interjurisdictional disaster emergency plans and to seek and authorize the furnishing of aid and assistance under such plans.”

Council member Ward Hauenstein took a moment during Tuesday’s meeting to acknowledge the huge impact that the pandemic has had on the city and to celebrate the end of the state of emergency. He was especially grateful to staff for maintaining essential city services for residents.

“I am so happy that we're out of it, and I'm so happy that I'm seeing faces and noses and to exit this emergency,” he said. “I just wanted to pay homage to all of the people and staff that put so much into this, and they deserve our thanks. So, thank you, all.”

Council member Racheal Richards urged the public to be respectful and understanding as residents and visitors alike continue to navigate a world with COVID but without a mask mandate.

“Let’s be kind to each other, and if someone is continuing to wear a mask for whatever reasons they’ve chosen to, respect that,” she said. “They’re not trying to make a statement to you or about you or anything else. It’s still out there, you still can get it, and it can still cause you problems.”

The Pitkin County Board of Commissioners voted earlier in the day to end the county’s own emergency declaration. Commissioners pointed to the 83% vaccination rate in the county as one of the reasons for rescinding their declaration.

“There are still people getting sick,” said Commissioner Steve Child. “There will still probably be spikes in different variants of the virus. But I think the fact that so many of our residents got vaccinated, that we as a whole are fairly well protected.”

Additional reporting on this story was provided by Aspen Public Radio’s Halle Zander.