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Boulder City Council intends to return to in-person meetings in its council chambers on April 19 at the Boulder Municipal Building.

Though meetings will remain hybrid, allowing for in-person or virtual attendance, the city expects to allow the public to return to chambers about a month later in mid to late May, staff confirmed.

The city based its plan on guidance from Boulder County Public Health as well as information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding community spread of the virus.

The CDC now has three levels designating low, medium and high transmission as green, yellow and red. If there is high transmission in the community, Boulder recommends returning to virtual meetings.

“Along with this new framework is also a greater shift toward local control and local public health agencies making the right decisions for themselves on what kind of public health policies to implement,” Assistant City Manager Pam Davis said in a City Council meeting in early March.

“We’re confident from a public health standpoint that council meetings may go hybrid as soon as a majority of council determines that you all are ready to do so,” she added.

Originally, staff recommended returning on April 5. However, because that’s a joint meeting with the Boulder County Commissioners, it will be conducted virtually.

The City Council has planned other returns for in-person meetings that did not happen, both for technical reasons and because of rising coronavirus case numbers.

According to the current plan, study sessions and council committee meetings will remain virtual. City boards and commissions will have discretion about whether to return to meet in person, though staff requested time after the City Council returns to prepare for other in-person meetings.

Largely, the City Council supported the plan, though some had questions about it.

Davis noted the council has a fair amount of discretion regarding what makes its members feel comfortable.

“I’m probably a little more reticent about the middle ground and if we’re trending in the wrong direction. I’m not sure I want to wait until we hit red,” Councilmember Mark Wallach said in the early March meeting. “Caution to me on this subject is always warranted.”

Councilmember Nicole Speer said she was concerned about whether those at high risk had been consulted about the plans. Speer said she wanted in-person testimony to be accessible for all if it’s available for some. Would it be possible to require masks if someone coming to testify requested it?

Davis said the city could consider ways to accommodate this but noted there would be an option for virtual participation no matter what.

“That’s really our first level of protection, but balancing participation with safety,” she said.

Similarly, Councilmember Matt Benjamin said people should be required to show their vaccine status before attending because the City Council had to do this when it returned for an in-person meeting after the election.

However, Davis said Boulder County disbanded its vaccine verification program, which served as a means of enforcement.

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