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Tracking COVID deaths in Colorado counties returning to mask mandates

Six Colorado counties are now requiring masks. We take a look at how increased deaths are prompting new protocols and restrictions.

DENVER — Six Colorado counties are taking a step back by reinforcing masks to try to control the COVID surge Colorado is experiencing.

"I think unfortunately we've been concerned about this possibility of increased hospitalizations and deaths, ever since we knew the delta variant had come on the stage,” Larimer County Population Epidemiologist Jared Olson, Ph.D, said.

Olson tracks COVID trends in Larimer County, then investigates how they came about.

The county reinforced its mask mandate Oct. 20. From Sept. 20 to the date masks returned, 27 people died of COVID. It's unclear how many of them, if any, were vaccinated.

"We've definitely been challenged by this for a while, and I think that's really what's responsible for that fact that we ended up taking this step earlier than some of our other counties,” Olson said.

On Monday, Jefferson, Arapahoe and Adams counties brought back their mask mandates.

RELATED: Jeffco, Tri-County Health approve mask mandates for indoor public spaces

Jeffco said earlier this month, 17 people died from COVID there in a week. Four were fully vaccinated, while the rest were not.

In the first half of this month, 40 people died from COVID in Adams County. Twenty-nine of them were unvaccinated, and 11 were vaccinated. 

During that same period, 23 died in Arapahoe County. Five were vaccinated, and 18 were not.

Olson said there are three factors driving these numbers.

"We absolutely are seeing folks getting back to their normal lives," he said. "We are also seeing some sort of waning immunity, and the necessity of booster doses for all adults, and we're also shifting into the colder winter months where we are moving indoors."

Olson said hospitalizations are declining in Larimer County. But he can't directly attribute the masks to the decline.

"I don’t know if that was the mask mandate, I don’t know if that was the booster doses amongst older adults, or just generally taking more precautions as a community. Some combination of these mitigation efforts are likely to be what has helped us reduce our hospitalizations, and reducing our hospitalizations will ultimately reduce our deaths,” Olson said.

RELATED: Here are each county's rules on masks in the Denver metro area


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