Boulder city council plans return to in-person meetings — for good

Boulder city council chambers (Shay Castle / Boulder Beat)

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Boulder’s elected officials will try a third time to return to in-person meetings as officials now say view COVID as endemic, rather than pandemic. 

City council has tried twice before to get back to chambers. Most recently, in May, two in-person meetings were followed by an outbreak among council members and city staff. 

Cases and hospitalizations are once again up in Boulder County, classified as having high transmission, according to CDC guidelines. Once COVID’s spread dips down to Medium transmission, the new normal operations will begin, Assistant City Manager Pam Davis said Thursday.

The city will stop relying on the color-coded system to determine whether meetings are hybrid or all online, and simply stay in-person no matter what happens with COVID. Ditto for internal city operations, which will enter into a permanent state of hybrid work.

“We will no longer adjust our operations periodically and discontinue our practice of internally adapting constantly to the changing metrics of COVID,” Davis said. “The fluctuation, those interruptions of services for staff and public have become challenging.”

Outbreaks can be handled through other means, Davis said, and masks will be required if and when transmission levels return to the CDC’s high classification, City Manager Nuria Rivera Vandermyde added.

The earliest council could return is August; study sessions will remain virtual for now. It’s unclear what limitations may be put on public attendance. Rivera Vandermyde said the city will seek legal advice before requiring masks or distancing.

We don’t want to ask things of the public that elected officials and staff aren’t also doing, Rivera Vandermyde said. Physical distancing is not possible on the dais, and council members were resistant to masking requirements.

Remote participation will still be possible, for the public and city personnel. Multiple elected officials said they prefer to remain at home until transmission is low — a place Boulder County hasn’t been since August 2021.

“Our meetings are sometimes five hours long,” said Tara Winer, who was awaiting the birth of a granddaughter Thursday evening. When council returned in May, “we didn’t even have the public (there) and we had that large outbreak. I’m not comfortable.”

Boulder County COVID stats
221 new cases per 100,000 – down but still high
12.82% positive tests – very high
13 local hospitalizations

See more from Boulder County, CDC and Colorado Public Health

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle

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