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Local health officials push for statewide public health orders

The Metro Denver Partnership for Health asked the state to implement, among other things, mask mandates at public indoor settings that don't require COVID vaccines.

DENVER — In recent weeks, the state has implemented several measures to try to help ease the pressure on hospitals as the number of patients with COVID-19 continues to stress Colorado's health care system. 

Some local health officials are now pushing even more steps to mitigate the spread of the virus, asking for statewide public health orders involving masks and vaccine mandates. 

On Friday, the Metro Denver Partnership for Health, which includes Boulder County Public Health, City and County of Broomfield, the Public Health Institute at Denver Health, Denver Public Health and Environment, Jefferson County Public Health and Tri-County Health Department, sent a letter to Gov. Jared Polis and the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. 

In the letter, they requested the state issue public health orders, which include requiring "vaccine passports" (proof of vaccination) for all guests and staff at places like bars, restaurants, gyms, sporting events and other large-group settings that are known to be "high-risk."

Additionally, the letter asks for mandated face coverings for all Coloradans age 2 and older in public indoor settings "without vaccine passports."

It also asks for required vaccinations, without a testing option, for groups including: 

  • Teachers, staff, and volunteers in schools and licensed child care settings.
  • Staff and volunteers in shelters and other congregate living settings.
  • Health care providers not already subject to mandates, including individuals licensed by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Division of Professions and Occupations.
  • State, county, municipal employees, boards and commissions, city councils, and their contractors not already subject to mandates.

> Read the full letter here.

The same week, the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials sent a letter asking for a statewide mask mandate. 

In a statement, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said, “A mandate only in Denver, which has a higher vaccination rate and a lower case rate than many surrounding communities, will have a limited impact. We can’t solve what is a statewide crisis with one local public health order.”   

Credit: FILE

"I can't overstate the fact that this crisis that we're in right now, cases are up throughout the state. Hospitals are stretched throughout the state. We need a statewide approach and we're encouraging the state to take that action for consistency, timeliness and having short term strategies and long term strategies to address the current crisis," said Bob McDonald, Executive Director of Denver's Department of Public Health and Environment. 

As far as why the local health departments in the letter don't collaborate on a regional public health order, McDonald said it comes down to consistency on several levels. 

"There are some challenges with getting consistency within the orders, perhaps getting consistency or consensus with regional elected officials and how that should be drafted and how it should be enforced. And so something coming from the state provides that consistency when it's needed," he said. 

RELATED: Many Colorado venues already have vaccine mandates in place

He said the time it takes to come up with a consensus through a regional health order is another issue.

"The health care system as a statewide system, and doing things locally or doing things just in Denver or in just a small group of counties, again, that's going to have limited impact," he said.

He said he's appreciative of the state's other efforts, but the entire state being under the same orders, he believes, would help with short-term solutions to the spread. 

Dr. Bill Berman with the Public Health Institute at Denver Health shared the same sentiment. 

"People live in one county, work in another county. I may have kids going to school in the third county," he said. "And so we think that operating at a minimum, regionally, is the way to go. And it's also worth pointing out that some of the highest case rates and hospitalization rates in our state are from counties outside of the metro area. So that's why we think that we need to have statewide."

If the state does not implement a statewide public health order, McDonald said, the group of public health entities may at least consider implementing their own metro-wide orders. 

"I think we would consider and I think we're continuing to have those conversations. I think my counterparts throughout the region are in agreement on the things that I indicated that we need to have a regional approach," he said.

McDonald said there's no known deadline for the state to respond to their letter.

"I don't know that we set a concrete date, but it becomes more dire as we navigate through the colder winter months. So we'll keep looking at data. We'll keep considering all options," he said.

RELATED: Broncos fans 'strongly encouraged' to wear masks in indoor spaces


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