The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment late Sunday ordered that anyone who attends certain public, indoor events with 500 or more people in Arapahoe, Jefferson, Adams, Denver and two other metro-area counties be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The requirement, which goes into effect Nov. 19, also applies to Boulder and Broomfield counties. It does not apply to Douglas, Clear Creek, Elbert or Weld counties.
Houses of worship are excluded from the order, which is only for “unseated” events. “To be considered a seated event, 100% of the participants at the event must be seated,” CDPHE wrote.
The order says that the events “shall require proof of being fully vaccinated to be admitted.”
“I am grateful for the counties that are coordinating with the state to slow the spread of the virus. Large venues and local governments are part of the solution to ending the pandemic,” CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan said in a news release.
“We also need all Coloradans to do their part by getting vaccinated if they haven’t already; getting a booster; and following basic public health precautions like masking, staying home when sick, and handwashing.”
The order, which you can read in full here, lists “concerts, receptions, bars, dance halls, and auctions” as examples of places where the vaccination rule could apply.
The venues will be able to accept negative COVID-19 tests in lieu of vaccinations until Nov. 30, according to CDPHE.
The amended public health order comes just days after Gov. Jared Polis spoke to a group of medical advisors about possible steps the state would take to stop the spread of COVID-19. One of those steps, according to The Colorado Sun, was urging cities to require attendees of indoor events to be vaccinated.
“We need to make indoor events safer,” Polis said in the meeting. “We can’t afford superspreader events.”
Some county leaders commended CDPHE and Polis for taking this step.
“Making large indoor gatherings safer and preventing potential superspreader events will help keep Jeffco kids in the classroom and slow the spread of COVID and the delta variant,” Jefferson County Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper said in a release. “We applaud this action today from the state and Governor.”
Some venues have already taken similar steps. Denver’s Ball Arena, for example, announced that COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative test would be required to attend events there starting Nov. 10. It was an announcement the governor celebrated.
Colorado is currently in a perilous situation where COVID-19 is concerned. Recently, the state’s hospital capacity reached an all-time pandemic low, and hospitalizations are nearing the December 2020 peak. (Over 80% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated, according to state data.)
As of Nov. 12, according to state officials, there have been 781,960 Coloradans diagnosed with COVID-19, 44,542 who have been hospitalized and 8,886 Coloradans who have died from COVID-19.
As of that date, the state said, 1,476 people were currently hospitalized in Colorado due to COVID-19, and only 810 hospital beds remained unoccupied across the state.
Data compiled by The New York Times show Colorado currently has the third-worse per-capita spread of COVID-19 in the country.
To combat the rising cases and strain on hospitals, Polis signed an executive order making it so that any fully vaccinated adult can receive a COVID-19 booster shot. He is also making a push for more monoclonal antibody treatments in the state.
However, the governor stopped short of re-implementing a statewide mask-wearing mandate, saying, “It’s a little bit harder to figure out what a mask order does in different areas and what impact that might have. One hypothesis is that those who are unvaccinated are the least likely to follow a mask order. And obviously, if we’re trying to get them to do one thing, it would be to get vaccinated.”
And Polis’ message to the unvaccinated? “Whatever that reason is, just suck it up and get protected. This thing isn’t going to go away.”
This story is from Rocky Mountain PBS, a nonprofit public broadcaster providing community stories across Colorado over the air and online. Used by permission. For more, and to support Rocky Mountain PBS, visit rmpbs.org.