Jul 28, 2021 - COVID

Colorado shirks mask, vaccine requirements as others take action

Illustration of someone holding up a medical mask shaped like a white flag

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When it comes to COVID-19 in Colorado, the state says you're essentially on your own.

Federal, state and local governments across the country are embracing mask requirements or mandatory coronavirus vaccinations.

  • But so far Colorado leaders are not following suit.

The big picture: Under new guidance released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks should be worn indoors by everyone β€” vaccinated or not β€” in areas with "substantial" to "high" COVID-19 transmission.

  • In addition, increasing case numbers and breakthrough cases among the vaccinated, linked to the Delta variant, led the CDC to recommend that everyone in K-12 schools wear masks when they return to school this fall.

By the numbers: CDC data shows the majority of Colorado counties have reached "substantial" or "high" transmission levels, and more could qualify soon.

  • The 42 counties include Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, El Paso, Larimer, Weld, Summit and Mesa counties.

What's happening: Gov. Jared Polis recently dismissed the need for a mask mandate and his office told Axios yesterday that he wouldn't require COVID-19 vaccines for the state's roughly 30,000 employees.

  • The state also won't pursue vaccine mandates for health care workers, the Colorado Sun reports.

With no statewide guidance, confusion about the best public health practices reigns and pressure builds on local officials.

  • In Denver, the Hancock administration currently does not support mandating vaccines for municipal workers or elected officials but is "watching the Delta variant closely," the mayor's spokesperson Mike Strott told Axios.
  • Across the state, many Colorado parents are still waiting to find out whether their kids will be required to wear masks in the upcoming school year, our reporting partners at Chalkbeat write.
  • At Denver Health, the city's public hospital, leadership is having "a lot of conversations and considerations about requiring vaccines," but a final decision hasn't been reached yet, spokesperson April Valdez Villa told Axios.

Between the lines: The inaction from Polis is not surprising. From the start, the Democratic governor resisted statewide mandates such as a lockdown and masks and downplayed both before being pressured to do adopt them.

  • But state health officials did recently require nursing home staff to get vaccinated or complete daily testing to limit the spread in those facilities.

The bottom line: Don't expect statewide mandates from Polis, but if rates get more serious, local officials may be forced to act on their own.


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