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Denver-area public health directors call for Polis to order statewide mask mandate

Group also wants vaccine passports for indoor high-risk spaces
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Posted at 4:57 PM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 00:47:07-05

DENVER – A coalition of metro Denver public health directors is calling on Gov. Jared Polis to take steps beyond those taken Sunday and to require masks indoors in public spaces for everyone age 2 and older.

On Sunday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment amended a public health order that mandates vaccines for people inside large public indoor events in six metro-area counties: Denver, Arapahoe, Adams, Boulder, Broomfield and Jefferson counties.

The updated order requires people at indoor, unseated events that have more than 500 people in attendance to be vaccinated starting Nov. 19. It also recommends counties move to vaccine requirements for people working in high-risk settings.

But the Metro Denver Partnership for Health — comprised of Boulder County Public Health, Broomfield Department of Public Health and Environment, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, Jefferson County Public Health, the Tri-County Health Department and the Public Health Institute at Denver Health — said Monday that it wants Polis and the CDPHE to go further.

The consortium is calling for the state to mandate masks indoors for all Coloradans ages 2 and up in all public indoor settings and sent a letter to the governor last week. A similar ask was made by the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials and the Colorado Public Health Association.

The group is also asking Polis to issue a statewide order requiring vaccine passports be utilized in high-risk indoor settings not already covered by Sunday’s order, such as bars, restaurants and gyms, among others.

“The current statewide surge is threating the capacity of our health care system, which puts Coloradans with any health emergency at risk and is why local public health agencies are calling for statewide action in the form of a public indoor mask order,” said Cara Bradbury, MPA, executive director of the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials.

Camille Rodriguez, the executive director of Boulder County Public Health, said the current stress on Colorado hospitals, along with the flu season ramping up, means “stronger statewide leadership and action” is needed.

Bill Burman, MD, the executive director of the Public Health Institute at Denver Health said the state needed to have a statewide mask mandate and vaccine requirements to “address the state’s short-term crisis and [to] help avoid future surges.”

There were 1,431 confirmed COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Colorado as of Monday, according to state data, and 72 other people hospitalized who were under investigation for whether or not they had the virus.

Ninety-one percent of acute care beds were in use on Monday across the state, as were 94% of intensive care unit beds.

Last week, Polis signed an executive order which says that every Coloradan age 18+ who meets the eligible timeframe for a booster shot should be allowed to get one. That came a day after CDPHE officials said COVID-19 hospitalizations could peak next month above 2,000.

Officials are also urging people who contract COVID-19 to seek out monoclonal antibody treatments to try to keep them from having to be hospitalized because of the virus.

But Polis again brushed aside questions about why he was not implementing another mask mandate, as he did last year when COVID-19 was spiking around the same time of the year, pointing to vaccines as being the difference between this year and last year.

“It’s easy to say wearing a mask will protect you because absolutely it delays your chance of getting COVID at any given point in time. It’s a little harder to figure out what a mask order does in different areas and what impact that might have,” the governor said.