Denver’s mask mandate has been extended to February

City officials say hospitalizations and cases have steadily risen and masks will help mitigate the spread.
3 min. read
Robin Cothley, with Denver Indian Health and Family Services, prepares a Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during the talking circle at Governor’s Park. June 10, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

City officials have extended the mask mandate through Feb. 3, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state.

Mayor Michael Hancock reinstated the mask mandate in November for all residents over the age of two. The order was set to expire on Jan. 3, 2022.

Denver's weekly positivity rate dropped to below 5% after the mandate was put into effect, according to a press release from the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment, but in the last two weeks, cases and hospitalizations have steadily risen.

"In November, Denver and much of the metro area took the necessary steps to curb the rising spread of COVID-19 and reduce the dangerous pressure on our hospital systems. Our efforts were not in vain," Hancock said in the release. "As the Omicron variant continues to spread during this holiday season, and hospital capacity remains strained, we simply cannot afford to let up now."

Businesses may continue to opt out of the mandate by verifying full vaccination status, but they must have city approval and proof that 95% of the people in the facility, including employees, are fully vaccinated.

The omicron variant was officially detected in Denver on Dec. 17. Dr. Bill Burman, Denver Health's former public health director, previously said omicron is more contagious than other variants.

"One thing I think we can be absolutely certain about is it is more transmissible, and not a little bit, a lot," Burman said.

In the press release, Denver Health said vaccine booster shots "provide the highest level of protection" against omicron. "According to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, boosted Coloradans are 47 times less likely to be hospitalized than unvaccinated Coloradans," it said.

Almost 90% of Denver county residents 12 and older have received at least one vaccination dose. More than 80% of people in this age group are fully vaccinated, according to city data. The city lifted its previous mask order in May.

Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment, said Denverites should continue to remain vigilant, wear a mask and get vaccinated.

"We must continue to stay the course on science-based control measures like face coverings to ensure hospital beds are available for anyone in need," McDonald said. "While face coverings are a tool to help manage this wave of the virus, vaccines are ultimately our way out of the pandemic. The emergence of a new variant underscores the importance of not only getting the COVID-19 vaccine but getting a booster dose as well."

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