Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday said the city’s indoor face covering mandate will expire on Thursday as COVID-19 case rates fall in the city.
The order, which was set to expire on Thursday, requires people two and older to wear a face covering while indoors in Denver, including places like offices, gyms, restaurants and cultural facilities. So starting Friday, the order will no longer be in effect, though Hancock noted some businesses may continue requiring people to wear them. He asked the public not to harass or “cause a scene” at places requiring face masks.
“We need a little less anger and petulance, and a little more understanding for folks for one another,” Hancock said. “So please, let’s be peaceful. Let’s be understanding with each other as we make this transition.”
Hancock said the pandemic remains a public health emergency and will remain so as long as spikes and variants threaten hospital capacity. However, he noted on Monday the city is shifting its strategy into what he called a “sustainable management of COVID.”
City public health director Bob McDonald said it looks like things may be moving toward an endemic — basically, a disease that’s constantly with us, like the flu — but he stopped short of saying the city would be treating it as such, adding it’s too early to make that determination.
The city has now passed the peak caused by the much-more transmissible omicron variant. McDonald said modeling shows lifting the face-covering order is safe, adding the order was successful in avoiding overwhelming hospitals. McDonald mentioned while there is a subvariant of omicron, modeling doesn’t suggest it will lead to a surge like the one seen due to the initial omicron.
“Omicron has run out of fuel within our community,” McDonald said.
Face coverings will continue to be required at Denver Public Schools and childcare facilities. Hancock and McDonald said this is important in helping schools stay open for in-person learning, while McDonald said another reason is that not everyone in the school-age group is eligible for a vaccine.
Hancock and McDonald encouraged people to get a vaccine or booster. As of Jan. 27, nearly 80% of people 12 and older in Denver are fully vaccinated, while about 40% of residents have gotten a booster after an initial vaccine series, according to data from the city’s public health department. The booster shot can help avoid severe illness from COVID-19.