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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis adjusts his face mask. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Colorado will no longer require face masks in most settings — even for unvaccinated people — and expects to lift all public health guidelines at the end of the month.

Driving the news: The state's move goes beyond the latest CDC guidelines that allow vaccinated people to go maskless because it also applies to those who are not immunized.

  • A face covering is merely suggested for those who are not vaccinated but is not required.

What they're saying: "Today we are not celebrating the end of the pandemic, but we are celebrating an important milestone," a maskless Gov. Jared Polis announced on Friday.

  • "I never really liked wearing a mask very much," he added.

The state of play: Colorado's COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the decline as vaccines become more prevalent. Those rates remains elevated from a fourth wave that hit when the state first relaxed public health protocols.

Yes, but: The state's new order, in effect through June 1, requires masks in certain settings, including health care facilities, prisons, jails, schools and childcare operators.

  • But a school district may now permit vaccinated teachers and students to go without masks if they show proof of vaccination.
  • The order is expected to maintain rules for indoor events with 500 or more people.

Officials expect some businesses to continue requiring face masks, and Polis said people should be courteous and do so when asked.

Between the lines: The governor expects this is "one of the final if not the final" order to phase out all public health restrictions — barring an increase in COVID case rates.

What's next: Denver announced later on Friday an end to capacity restrictions on businesses starting Sunday. The city will follow the state's lead and not impose mask requirements.

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Go deeper

May 14, 2021 - Health

New CDC mask guidance tests risk tolerance

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The CDC announced Thursday that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors.

Why it matters: The U.S. is entering a new stage in the pandemic where the public — vaccinated or not — will need to assess its own risk tolerance in shared spaces.

Updated May 15, 2021 - Health

How retailers are responding to the latest CDC guidance

Photo: Scott Dalton/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some retailers across the U.S. will continue requiring masks in stores, despite new coronavirus guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxing mask mandates for fully vaccinated people.

The latest: Starbucks announced that masks will be "optional" for fully vaccinated customers starting May 17 "unless local regulations require them by law." Employees will still be required to wear face coverings and restrooms will remain closed to the public in stores where indoor seating is not available.

John Frank, author of Denver
May 14, 2021 - Axios Denver

Denver area to declare all-clear on COVID

Expand chart
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The Denver area plans to lift all local public health rules in coming days.

Driving the news: By Monday, Jefferson, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder and Broomfield counties will move to "Level Clear" — dubbed the "new normal" by public health officials.

  • At this level, there are no local mask requirements or limits on capacity.

What to watch: Denver will announce its next public health phase today. It is expected to follow its neighboring counties, but officials declined to elaborate ahead of the announcement.

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