Mask mandate draws complaints in Denver area as Omicron looms
The latest public health orders in the Denver metro area are generating complaints because residents are ignoring the mandate to wear masks indoors.
Driving the news: Denver reported at least 78 complaints through midday Tuesday, but has issued no citations, according to the city.
- Tri-County Health has received at least 70 complaints in Arapahoe and Adams counties, CBS4 reports.
Why it matters: State public health experts reiterated Tuesday that face masks — along with vaccines — are a key precaution to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and avoid exceeding hospital capacity.
State of play: Colorado COVID-related hospitalizations have decreased to 1,466 after a spike north of 1,600 earlier in the month, and the availability of intensive care-unit beds has increased — a shift that state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy called "a good sign."
- Yes, but: While the decline in hospitalizations and case rates could reflect less coronavirus transmission, it could also represent a data aberration after the holiday weekend.
Between the lines: The global spread of the Omicron variant — which has not been detected in Colorado yet — remains a concern.
- In addition to monitoring individual COVID-19 tests for the new variant, officials are checking wastewater samples — which is how the Delta variant was first discovered in the state.
Zoom in: It's too early to know whether the indoor mask mandates added in five Denver metro counties last week are making a difference in case rates, especially with spotty compliance.
- Business owners are required to post signs denying entry to those without masks, but some aren't enforcing the order, CBS4 found.
- Larimer County saw more than 900 noncompliance complaints in the first month after requiring masks starting in October, 9News reported.
Our thought bubble: The other day, John heard a Denver Whole Foods manager tell the private security guard at the door to allow people to shop even if they didn't want to wear masks and raised a fuss.
- On Sunday, Alayna heard an AT&T employee offer a maskless customer a face covering, but then say he didn't mind if she continued going without.
What they're saying: Denver public health officials take "compliance with the public health order seriously and we are following up on all complaints we receive," spokesperson Courtney Ronner said in a statement to Axios.
- "Ultimately, our goal is to ensure compliance with the public health order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our region."
This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.
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