Facing what could be a dramatically steep surge in new cases of COVID-19 in Colorado amid the spread of the omicron variant, several metro Denver counties announced they would continue their local mask mandates.
In Adams and Arapahoe counties, a school mask mandate will be extended, and a broader mandate for masks in public indoor spaces will continue, according to Tri-County Health Department.
With the surge in cases “it makes sense to continue with as many prevention practices as possible to protect the health of everyone in Adams and Arapahoe counties,” said a statement from Becky O’Guin, spokesperson for Tri-County Health. “We also need to help protect our frontline workers who have worked exhaustively for the last two years.”
Hospital capacity remains “very tight,” and surges in omicron cases are likely to further aggravate the situation, according to a Dec. 28 news release from the Colorado Health Institute.
“Wearing masks indoors slows the spread of respiratory viruses,” Dawn Comstock, executive director of Jefferson County Public Health, said in the news release. “Last month’s COVID-19 surge was reduced because people in our communities wore masks and got vaccinated, including booster doses. Continuing these strategies will save lives as we experience the rapid growth of the omicron variant as well as increasing influenza cases.
“We cannot become complacent,” Comstock added.
Here’s a look at the mask requirements in several metro counties.
Tri-County’s broader mask mandate applies in public indoor places, such as event spaces, businesses, restaurants, gyms, government buildings and facilities, offices, and other spaces that are not considered an individual’s residence.
The mask mandate applies to all people age 2 and older in all public indoor spaces in Adams and Arapahoe counties. It took effect in late November.
Tri-County also provides certain public health services in Douglas County but no longer has authority over countywide public health orders, such as mask mandates, in that county. The newly formed Douglas County Health Department has not issued a mask mandate.
The order for Adams and Arapahoe was to remain in effect through Jan. 2 — and further after that until staffed intensive-care unit bed capacity reaches 10% or greater for 14 consecutive days. The 10% ICU capacity mark was to be considered at a regional level.
The order allows what it calls “fully vaccinated facilities” to be excepted from the mask requirement. Those are businesses and events that choose to implement a policy that verifies that 95% of all individuals within their public indoor space are fully vaccinated.
Tri-County announced it would extend its current school mask mandate, an order requiring masks for all people age 2 and older in schools and child care settings. The order took effect on Sept. 1 and was initially set to remain in effect until Dec. 31 unless extended.
Now, the school mask policy extends for at least 30 days — until Jan. 31 unless it’s further extended, O’Guin said.
“Please continue to wear a mask in indoor public places, wash your hands, get tested if you have symptoms or have a known exposure to someone who has COVID-19 and avoid large gatherings,” O’Guin’s statement said.
Jefferson County Public Health’s mandate was also to continue. That order requires all individuals age 3 or older to wear a mask while entering or within any public indoor space.
“Public indoor spaces” include all enclosed indoor areas that are not an individual’s residence, according to the order.
Jeffco’s order also allows for an exception to the mask order for “approved fully vaccinated facilities,” similar to Tri-County’s policy.
The mask requirement remains in effect during periods of “substantial or high transmission” of COVID as measured by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Transmission Tracker, according to the order. The order took effect Nov. 24.
The order is called JCPH Order 21-006, and “schools and childcares are now subject to the face covering requirements of JCPHO 21-006,” according to another order dated Dec. 10.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, joined by metro-area public health leaders, on Nov. 23 announced a new face covering order for Denver as part of a “coordinated approach to prevent the region’s hospital system from collapsing,” according to the City of Denver’s website. The order has been extended through Feb. 3, the website says.
Similar to the other metro-area orders, masks are required indoors for everyone age 2 and older in all public indoor spaces.
Also echoing the other counties, Denver’s website adds: “Facilities must require face coverings for all indoor spaces OR choose to operate as a fully vaccinated facility and verify proof of full vaccination before entry.”
The website also adds: “This public health order does not change face covering requirements in schools and childcare facilities, where masks have been required since August.”
Additionally, employees working in high-risk settings and employees for the City and County of Denver are required to be fully vaccinated, the website says.
Clear Creek County
On Dec. 3, the Clear Creek County Board of Health passed an order requiring face coverings to be worn by all those age 3 or older in all public indoor spaces effective Dec. 7, according to the county’s website.
“The new BOH Resolution 21-06 shall be suspended when Clear Creek County has experienced at least 21 consecutive days in Moderate or Low Transmission or when the Colorado Crisis of Standards of Care Plan has been deactivated,” the website says.
The City and County of Broomfield announced it was extending two public health orders.
Broomfield requires masks in all city and county facilities, per public health order 2021-004, according to its website. PHO 2021-04 has been amended and extended from Dec. 23 through Jan. 31.
Masks are required for all individuals age 2 and older in all city and county facilities, including the Broomfield Library, Community Center and Paul Derda Recreation Center. Fully vaccinated individuals with a booster can opt out of wearing a mask by showing proof of being fully vaccinated with a booster — with a paper or electronic version of a vaccination card — upon request, according to the website.
Broomfield public health also issued an indoor mask requirement for those ages 2-11 in schools and licensed child care facilities effective Aug. 16. PHO 2021-03 has been amended and extended from Dec. 23 through Jan. 31.
In Boulder County, an order approved by the board of health on Sept. 2 requires mask wearing in all indoor public spaces for all individuals age 2 and older.
The order requires that all individuals wear a mask when Boulder County is in periods of “substantial or high transmission” as defined by the CDC’s transmission tracker.
Like other metro counties’ policies, Boulder’s order offers businesses, facilities and events that choose to implement a “vaccination verification policy” for their employees and guests the option of allowing removal of masks, the county’s website says.
“Please note, the order does not permit ‘proof of vaccination OR mask’ policies,” the website says. “A business must require (essentially) all individuals entering the facility or event to provide proof of vaccination.”
A Boulder County order dated Aug. 9 says: “All individuals age 2 and older must wear a Face Covering while inside any school building” and “while indoors at any childcare center.”
Recent orders came after advisory
Before several of the counties’ recent orders, metro Denver health officials urged residents to wear masks in public indoor spaces in a Nov. 5 announcement that was called a statewide “public health advisory.”
The advisory was issued by the Metro Denver Partnership for Health, which includes the public health agencies of Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson and Denver counties as well as Tri-County Health.
MDPH is supported and staffed by the Colorado Health Institute, according to the Dec. 28 news release.
“As the more transmissible COVID-19 omicron variant takes hold in the metro region and across Colorado, the Metro Denver Partnership for Health (MDPH) is continuing its regional approach to stop the spread of COVID-19 by retaining or extending local public health orders requiring face coverings in indoor public settings,” the news release said.