Three metro districts in Denver are adopting new mask mandates until COVID cases fall back | MCU Times

Three metro districts in Denver are adopting new mask mandates until COVID cases fall back

The health districts of three metro districts in Denver – Jefferson, Adams and Arapahoe – voted Monday night to demand that almost everyone again wear masks in indoor public spaces, though companies can be exempted if they require staff and customers to be vaccinated.

Jeffco public health order, adopted by a 4-1 vote, requires adults and most children to wear masks in indoor public spaces, including retail stores, restaurants and gyms from Wednesday.

“The purpose of this order is to slow down the spread … so that we do not have any unnecessary deaths and so that we can maintain our hospital capacity,” said Jeffco board member Kimberley Krapek.

Children under 3 are exempt from the Jeffco order, as are:

  • People who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask
  • First Aiders
  • People who are addicted to word of mouth or trying to communicate with someone who does
  • Participating in a show or leaders in a worship service if they are 12 feet from others
  • People in a closed room with only members of their household (eg a private room in a restaurant)
  • Customers who need to remove a mask to eat or drink, or to receive a personal service or religious ritual
  • Swimmers in a pool
  • People who participate in individual sports, such as gymnastics, if they are 25 feet from others

The Tri-County Health Department’s Board of Health voted 5-1 not long after to pass a mask order similar to the Jefferson County for Adams and Arapahoe counties. Douglas County, which still contracts with Tri-County for routine public health services, has resisted any effort to reintroduce mask mandates, to the point where they have set up their own public health council.

Hospital admissions in Larimer County have dropped by about a third since implementing a mask mandate, said Dawn Comstock, CEO of Jefferson County Public Health. Neighborhood Weld County hospital admissions have not dropped, suggesting masks make a difference, she said.

State-wide hospital admissions rose to 1,565 Monday afternoon, with 635 general beds and 81 intensive care units still available. Nearly half of the hospitals reporting to the state – 46% – said they expected to be deficient by next week.

The week ending Sunday seemed to have nearly 2,000 fewer cases than the previous week. However, this difference is likely to narrow as delayed reports come in. Deaths continued to rise and reached levels seen at the worst time in April 2020 in the first week of November.

There are some hopeful signs because the number of new cases and the percentage of tests returning positive has dropped over the last few days, Dr. Jon Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health. However, it is too early to know whether this is a trend or random fluctuations in the numbers.

Last year, there was not a significant bump in cases after Thanksgiving, and hospitalizations peaked in early December, but it is not clear whether Colorado will follow the same path this year, Samet said.

“This year could be different, because it looks like a lot more people are going to travel,” he said.

Boulder, Pitkin and Larimer counties already have mask mandates in place. In general, the counties in the metro area are trying to synchronize their public health orders, but Denver and Broomfield have not said whether they plan to demand masks again.

Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said the city would announce “some things” on Tuesday, but did not specify what they could be.

The Jefferson County mandate will remain in effect until the county has had fewer than 50 cases for every 100,000 people for three weeks in a row, and fewer than 8% of COVID-19 tests are positive. At the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers transmission “moderate” and no longer recommends requiring vaccinated persons to wear masks.

As of Monday, Jefferson County had 345.2 cases for every 100,000 people during the previous week, and an average of 10.5% of the tests were positive.

The increase in cases this fall has led to increasing admissions. Jefferson County’s frequency of admissions compared to the population is about nine times what it was in early July: 2.41 per. 100,000 people in mid-November, compared to 0.26 per. 100,000 in the summer.

Jefferson County already required masks in schools, child care facilities and county-owned buildings. People also have to disguise themselves in nursing homes and prisons and on public transportation due to state and federal regulations.

About 78% of Jefferson County residents 12 years and older are fully vaccinated. The state does not provide county data for children in the age group of 5 to 11, which was recently justified.

That Infectious Disease Society of America estimates that at least 80% of the entire population must be immune to control the delta variant because delta is more contagious than previous versions of SARS-CoV-2. When a virus is more contagious, people who are unvaccinated or do not have a strong immune response are more likely to be found through large numbers and luck.

Several health departments in the metropolitan area, including Jefferson County, sent a letter asking Governor Jared Polis to adopt a state-wide mask mandate, but Comstock acknowledged it was “highly unlikely.” Police have repeatedly said that any decision on masks should be made locally.

Hundreds of people signed up to speak at the Jeffco Board of Health’s virtual meeting, even though the public comment period was limited to two hours. Many were business owners who did not want to be tasked with enforcing a mandate. Owners of fitness clubs had a particularly strong appearance, asking for a waiver, for fear that their customers would cross county boundaries or stop exercising altogether.

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