Could Colorado reinstate mask mandate? Officials meanwhile continue vaccination push

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) — New guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone in areas “of substantial or high transmission ” wear masks indoors, including students and those who are vaccinated.

The changes are based on spikes in COVID-19 cases in some areas and the threat of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.

Vaccination is the goal

Health officials tell FOX31 they are still considering the recommendations for Colorado, as the push to get everyone vaccinated remains the top priority.

While many are relieved to go mask-free, the thought of returning to the use of masks indoors is disheartening to many.

“It was the right thing to do, but it’s good to have it behind us,” one resident said.

Others say they are willing to do whatever it takes to maintain a safe environment for their families and neighbors.

State health officials say while COVID cases in Denver and the Front Range are increasing, Denver’s vaccination rate is high and hospitalization rate is low. Medical experts tell the Problem Solvers that with growing concern about the aggressive delta variant of COVID-19 and whether you’re vaccinated or not, masks can still make a difference.

“We know that the delta variant is out there with COVID. We don’t know what it is going to do,” Laura Ann Cleveland of Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children said.

Cleveland added that there are special concerns when it comes to schools.

“Ultimately, our task and goal is to protect our children, families and even teachers taking care of these kids,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland emphasized that children over the age of 12 should receive vaccinations.

Another good reason to limit exposure in environments that don’t provide ventilation, like inside crowded rooms, is that silent carriers of the virus (or its variant) may be present.

Officials respond to new guidance

The Problem Solvers reached out to Denver Public Schools on how they’re responding to the new guidance for the start of the school year.

Spokesperson Will Jones issued the following statement:

“We are continuing to work with our health partners to determine what safety protocols will be needed for the 2021-22 school year. While we anticipate a return to more normal operations, it is possible that some requirements (such as the use of masks) will continue at the start of the school year.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment tells the Problem Solvers vaccines are the best defense against COVID-19 and urges anyone who hasn’t received one yet to get vaccinated right away.

When asked about the new direction the CDC is taking with mask-wearing, Gov. Jared Polis followed the CDPHE and pushed for Coloradans to protect themselves by getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We had mask mandates before we had an effective vaccine. So now that we have a vaccine that’s far more effective than a mask, that’s the best step that anybody can take to protect themselves and their family,” Polis said.

“Certainly there are those that are vaccinated who wear masks, and I would really strongly recommend it for those who are not vaccinated. Right now masks have about a 50% protection level. The vaccination is in the mid-90s for protection. Certainly among those who are most vulnerable, there are people who prefer to use masks just for that extra level of protection. But the vaccine is where we need to go,” Polis said.

Vaccinations are free and readily available to anyone, with or without insurance. Information about vaccines and locations are on the City of Denver website.

Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas fall under new indoor mask guidelines

The Tri-County Health Department provided FOX31 with the following statement:

Tri-County Health Department has closely followed the release of the updated CDC mask guidance today, and we are waiting for its official publication and subsequent comments from CDPHE before offering any additional guidance for the counties in our district. Currently, similar to the rest of the Metro area, all three TCHD counties are in the CDC’s “Substantial” zone of transmission with 7 day incidence rates/100,000 persons >50, so the new CDC guidance recommending that all persons, vaccinated or not, wear masks in indoor settings would apply here.

In addition, we have been working with our school districts to achieve optimal in person learning and prevent transmission of COVID-19 and will continue to do so to help them understand how best to apply this new guidance. Wearing masks in indoor settings is an evidence-based, safe and effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Given that the more transmissible Delta variant is widely circulating and that cases in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties are rising, we support enhanced mask-wearing in the settings recommended by CDC while we work with our communities on our most effective strategy: increasing our vaccination rates as quickly as possible.

In response to the CDC’s latest decision, a spokesperson from the state said: “We are reviewing this guidance and the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is to get the free, safe, and effective vaccine. Local public health departments are not subsidiaries of CDPHE and each has the ability to enact such measures on its own.”

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