DENVER — Mayor Michael Hancock announced the City and County of Denver is ending the outdoor mask mandate and moving most indoor settings to Level Blue restrictions during an update on the response to the COVID pandemic and vaccination efforts on Wednesday.
The mask order change is effective as of Wednesday and will expire in 30 days. At that point, officials will evaluate data to determine if it will be renewed. Anyone three or older is still required to wear masks in indoor settings and on public transportation.
The move the Level Blue restrictions on the state's COVID dial will happen on Friday when the statewide dial becomes advisory instead of mandatory.
The Level Blue restrictions will also be reevaluated in 30 days.
Hancock and Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) Executive Director Bob McDonald both said that a gradual reduction of restrictions is necessary while case counts are rising.
“We believe it is necessary to keep many restrictions in place for at least the next 30 days in indoor and outdoor settings,” Hancock said.
Under Level Blue, many indoor settings including restaurants and gyms will be allowed to go back to 100% capacity while maintaining social distancing requirements. The state will maintain control of indoor events with 500 or more in attendance.
Denver will also adopt some outdoor capacity limits. Events with 5,000 or fewer expected to attend will be asked to send a written mitigation plan to DDPHE. Events that expect more than 5,000 to attend must consult with DDPHE before moving forward.
Denver's Five Star Certification Program will also remain in place for 30 more days and then reevaluated.
Sonia Riggs, the president and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said Denver’s move was a step in the right direction, but that it would more directly benefit larger restaurants than smaller ones, which would remain at 25-50% capacity due to the rule about six feet between parties.
“Denver County loosening restrictions to “Level Blue” as of Friday, April 16 and allowing restaurants to operate at 100% capacity with six-feet distancing still in place is a step forward for large restaurants and venues with ample square footage, but the six-foot distancing rules prevent small- to mid-size restaurants from being able to open at 100% capacity—and many restaurants will remain at below 50% capacity. Until the six-foot distancing requirements are lifted, most restaurants will be stuck operating between 25% and 50% capacity,” her statement reads.
“Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of each county establishing their own guidelines will be the creation of a competitive advantage for restaurants located in counties with fewer restrictions and the potential loss of business for restaurants in surrounding counties with stricter safety guidelines. We also have concerns about the confusion that a patchwork of local public health orders will create both for the industry and diners. We encourage local public health agencies to work to clearly communicate these changes so that the industry and its workers are not responsible for educating their customers about the specifics of this rapidly changing regulatory landscape.”
Colorado suspends use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine
Colorado is temporarily halting the use of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine following a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after blood clots were reported in six women who received the vaccine.
"We know that one thing is sure, COVID-19 is several orders of magnitude more dangerous than the limited reporting of any of these instances of side effects from vaccines," Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said during a Tuesday update.
"We're following the FDA and CDC guidelines to hold off a few days until we develop the protocols and measurements to make sure that we can restore full public confidence in all three life saving vaccines," Polis said.
Federal health officials recommended temporarily suspending the use of the vaccine after reviewing reports that six people in the U.S. got rare and severe blood clots after receiving the vaccine but allowed states to decide how to proceed on that recommendation.
Denver metro counties preparing to move forward with pandemic restrictions
Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) and the Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) released some details on Tuesday on how the Denver metro area will move forward with pandemic restrictions after the mandatory statewide COVID-19 dial comes to an end.
Many county health departments throughout the state are issuing their own guidance as the state executive order mandating that counties adhere to the limits set out by Dial 3.0 ends on Friday.
At a news conference Tuesday with Gov. Jared Polis, TCHD executive director John Douglas said health departments in the Denver metro area joined together into the Metro Denver Partnership for Health to develop a regional plan.
The counties involved are Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, Denver and two counties covered by TCHD: Adams and Arapahoe.
How to get a COVID vaccine in Colorado
Everyone age 16 and older in Colorado who wants to receive a COVID-19 vaccine is now eligible to do so.
With that influx of people becoming eligible, don't expect to get a vaccine right away. You won't be able to sign up for an appointment until you're eligible, you can, however, take some steps now, to make the process a little smoother. For example, you don't need to wait until then to get on a waitlist, you can sign up now.
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