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Denver 'likely' to let mask order expire Thursday

Colorado public health officials are encouraged by a decline in COVID case rates.

DENVER — The City of Denver on Friday said it is "likely" to let its public health order expire next week.

The public health order that requires masks in public indoor spaces is due to expire Thursday, Feb. 3.

"As we approach Feb. 3, we’re analyzing the data and it seems likely we will be able to let the public health order expire," said a statement from the City of Denver to 9NEWS. "We’re encouraged by the continued decline in case rates, positivity and hospitalizations in Denver and across the metro area. We’ll be talking with our regional partners over the weekend."

The Denver public health order went into effect in November and was previously set to expire Jan. 3, but the city extended the order due to "rising cases of COVID-19 and the emergence of the omicron variant in Colorado," according to a news release.

Denver and neighboring counties — including Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, Adams and Arapahoe counties — extended its public health order on Dec. 28 to Feb. 3.

On Friday, Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) which covers Adams and Arapahoe counties said it would have a special meeting on Jan. 31 to discuss ending masking public health orders. The agency also said it extended its public health order requiring face masks in schools and childcare facilities through Feb. 4 to give its Board of Health time to consider when to end the mask requirement for schools, childcare facilities and for indoor public spaces. 

The agency said that requirement could end "soon after" Feb. 4.

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The public health order requires face coverings in Denver for everyone age two and older in all public indoor spaces. Under the order, if a business or venue can verify that at least 95% of people in the facility are fully vaccinated, then face coverings aren't required.

Officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said that COVID-19 data continues to decline but remains high during an update on the state's response to the pandemic on Thursday.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said the positivity rate declined about 4% to 22%, and hospitalizations are also declining, with 1,444 patients with COVID-19 occupying beds as of Thursday.

RELATED: Omicron surge continues gradual decline, subvariant not significant cause for concern, health officials say

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COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman said hospital bed availability has been stable, with the seven-day average of open acute ICU beds around 680. 

He acknowledged that hospitalizations may decline at a slower rate as patients who have put off procedures occupy beds, which will continue to stretch the understaffed health care workforce thin.

Herlihy also said it's believed fewer COVID-19 patients are hospitalized due to their symptoms, as opposed to testing positive while in the hospital.

"While things are moving in the right direction, there is still a lot of COVID-19 moving through our communities," Herlihy said.

CDPHE released an updated statewide modeling report on Wednesday estimating 80% of the state's population will be immune to omicron by mid-February.

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