Mesa County is one of the first counties in the state to enter the Protect Our Neighbors phase of reopening and there a few changes to be aware of.

This week, the Mesa County Board of Public Health gave its approval for moving to the next phase of reopening in the county. The new order expands on the current phase with the ultimate and eventual goal being a complete reopening of Mesa County.

The first thing people want to know about is masks. Are they going away?

The answer is absolutely not, masks aren't going anywhere anytime soon. However, a number of exceptions and exemptions have been put in place. We still have to wear a mask when entering or exiting a building, and when we are moving through a public indoor space, such as the grocery store or the hardware store. There are, however, certain situations in which a mask may be removed.

Face coverings may be removed:
* While exercising indoors
* While seated at an establishment or church
* While alone in an office or cubicle, as long as safe distances and practices are applied.
* When delivering a speech to an audience ( but put back on immediately following)
* In meeting rooms or offices if a safe distance is maintained

Face coverings still need to be worn:
* When entering or exiting a building and moving through a public indoor space
* When using public transportation
* While singing in a public setting, whenever a safe distance cannot be maintained 
* While doing group sports when a safe distance cannot be maintained

The other major aspect of the Protect Our Neighbors phase of reopening concerns capacity limits for retail stores, restaurants, bars, offices, personal services, churches, gyms, theaters, organized sports, indoor special events, and sponsored or hosted gatherings. The new order limits the number of people to 50% of the facility's normal capacity or 500 people, whichever is less. Groups need to be limited to 10 or fewer people in the same party, and organized seating must not allow for more than 10 people from a single party.

Capacity restrictions may be increased by 5% every four weeks if Mesa County is in compliance with the Protect Our Neighbors metric. The increase will not be automatic, but rather, will be determined by Mesa County Public Health.

Mesa County continues to move forward toward that goal of reopening, though, I'm sure that process is not as fast as most people would like. We have to remember, this is progress and we are headed in the right direction. Let's all continue to be vigilant in wearing masks, washing our hands, and staying home when we are sick or have symptoms. I know a lot of people don't like the word "compliance" but, the reality is, the more compliant we are, the sooner we can get back to normal and get our regular lives back.

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