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Polis' new COVID order does not include social restrictions, frustrating some

Molly Schaefer's family was indirectly impacted by COVID, as her son's surgery was canceled. She wonders why Colorado has a booster loophole and not other rules.

DENVER — Everyone in Colorado is now considered high risk for COVID-19.

In an executive order signed Wednesday night, Gov. Jared Polis (D) declared the entire state of Colorado "high risk for exposure or transmission of COVID-19."

He did that to make everyone 18 or older eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot.

He did not issue a new mask mandate or capacity restrictions like the last time hospitals in Colorado were as full with COVID-19 patients.

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"I have a 14-month-old son named Morris, and he was born with a cleft lip and palate," said Molly Schaefer. "His surgery was canceled 36 hours before he was supposed to have it due to no surgical ICU beds available at Children's Hospital and also no OR nurses."

Her son had his first surgery to repair his lip in December. The palate repair was supposed to happen a few weeks ago, but was canceled.

"Left unrepaired it can impact breathing, eating and most importantly, the ability to speak," said Schaefer. "Luckily for us, he's doesn't have any issues with breathing or eating, it's really just going to impact his speech."

Citing patient privacy, Children's Hospital Colorado would not address Morris' case, but said in a statement that the hospital is experiencing very high volumes due to COVID-19, respiratory season and an increase in children and youth experiencing mental health crises.

"While we try to avoid doing so, deferring non-emergent surgeries is one option we can employ if we are experiencing high capacity constraints," said a spokeswoman in the emailed statement.

"Until their staffing is resolved, they don't want to reschedule anyone because they aren't confident that they would actually be able to stick to that date," said Schaefer.

She wants to see the governor mandate changes that could help make rescheduling easier.

"It just bogles the mind that we wouldn't be putting in these preventative measures that we've all lived through for most of 2020 and half of 2021," said Schaefer. "I absolutely think that we should have indoor mask mandates."

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"I would say that the state is pretty much on fire with COVID. There is COVID everywhere. The hospitals are full with people with COVID. It's a big deal right now," said University of Denver associate professor of chemistry Alex Huffman.

Huffman studies aerosols.

"The principles of how this virus spreads is the same as it was last year," said Huffman. "When you breathe out, the virus in your body goes out, other people can breathe it in."

Just like last year when he gave suggestions for preparing for Thanksgiving, he still recommends caution even with family members and friends who are vaccinated and boosted.

"You can't rely completely on the vaccine. It's one layer of protection, but you've really got to consider the other layers of protection as well: opening the windows, adding some HEPA filtration, adding some distance, being outside if you can, putting on masks occasionally as well," said Huffman.

In an emailed statement, a spokesman for Polis also mentioned a layered approach, saying masks are one important strategy.

"…it reduces the risk of getting the virus by about half and people have always had the ability to wear a mask whether it’s required or not. However, the vaccine and now the booster are far more effective," the spokesman said in the statement. "A number of counties have local mask-wearing ordinates and they have always had the ability to adopt restrictions."

"I try to stay in the principles of what's going on from an aerosol perspective and not get out over my skis and talk about politics in this venue, but there's no question that we've got to do something else," said Huffman. "Doing things like masks and reducing capacity inside is something we need to seriously consider right now."

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