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DENVER (KDVR) – People in Denver will have to continue wearing masks until Feb. 3, 2022, according to an extended public health mandate, and neighboring counties have also extended their mask orders.

However, that requirement also allows businesses to let people go without masks if they can verify vaccination.

On Tuesday, Denver, along with Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield and Jefferson counties, announced it is extending their mask mandates as cases of COVID-19 are rising amid the spread of the new omicron variant.

Jefferson, Boulder, Adams and Arapahoe counties’ mandates are tied to metrics, including transmission and ICU bed capacity, so there is no specific date for those mandates to end.

Broomfield County is extending its indoor mask mandate — which only applies to unvaccinated people in city and county buildings, along with people ages 2-11 and staff in schools in childcare facilities — until Jan. 31.

Editor’s note: Broomfield announced on Tuesday, Jan. 4, that it will implement a city and countywide indoor mask mandate for everyone age 2 and older, starting Friday, Jan. 7, through Feb. 3.

“We’ve got what is now the most infectious variant and our case numbers have just skyrocketed faster than anything we’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Denver Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Bob McDonald (see the full interview below).

The public health order went into effect in November 2021. During that time, city officials say Denver’s one-week average positivity rate dropped to below 5%, but it has quickly started to rise in the last two weeks, and cases and hospitalizations are expected to climb.

“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,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said in a media statement. “As the Omicron variant continues to spread during this holiday season, and hospital capacity remains strained, we simply cannot afford to let up now.”

“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,” added Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment. “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.”