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Jeffco, Tri-County Health approve mask mandates

Jeffco, Tri-County Health approve mask mandates

Health officials for several counties in the metro Denver area are considering public health orders to require face coverings in indoor public spaces.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Two Colorado health departments representing three Denver-area counties passed public health orders Monday to require masks in public indoor spaces. 

The Jeffco Board of Health passed a public health order Monday evening that requires masks in public indoor spaces for those 3 years old and older. The Tri-County Health Department, which covers Arapahoe and Adams counties, passed a similar measure shortly after the Jeffco vote. That order applies to people 2 years and older.

Both orders go into effect Wednesday. They both allow businesses that require proof of full vaccination to apply for an exemption.

Jefferson County mask order approved

The Jefferson County Board of Health meeting started at 11 a.m. Monday, and included hours of public comment and discussion among the board members before they passed the order by a vote of 4 to 1. The only member of the board to vote against it was Cheri Jahn.

The draft of the Jefferson County mandate, which the board made some changes to — including changing the age requirement for face coverings from 2 to 3 years old — is available to read here.

During the public comment period, more than 35 people spoke against a mask mandate for reasons ranging from the struggles for small businesses enforcing such a mandate to the struggles of parents getting their young children to wear a mask. One person spoke in favor of a mask mandate.

> Watch the Jeffco Board of Health meeting

Board president Greg Deranleau said the board received hundreds more written comments, many more of which were in support of a mandate, as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise and could overwhelm hospital bed capacity by the end of December.

The board members acknowledged the complexity of the situation and asked that Jefferson County Public Health give them an update on the actions of the public health order next month.

“Our businesses will suffer more if we do nothing than if we take action,” Deranleau said.

In the first hour of the meeting, the Board of Health heard presentations from public health officials with Boulder County on its mask requirement and the City and County of Denver on its vaccine mandate for city employees and those in high-risk occupations and settings.

Several times, health officials with Jefferson County and other counties emphasized the need for regional cooperation on efforts to curb the current surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“The virus doesn’t care which side of a county border you’re on,” said Dr. Dawn Comstock, executive director of Jefferson County Public Health. “The metro area must move forward as one.”

According to the Jefferson County order:

The order goes into effect at midnight on Nov. 24 and would remain in effect “at all times Jefferson County is in Substantial or High Transmission.”

Face coverings are required in all indoor public spaces except for businesses or facilities that are Approved Fully Vaccinated. That means the facility or business would submit and receive approval from Jefferson County Public Health for an exception to the order and must display a sign saying only fully vaccinated individuals with proof of vaccination can enter.

The order applies to everyone over the age of 3, unless they cannot medically tolerate a face covering or are engaged in certain activities that are specified in the order.

It would also apply to public transportation, including school buses.

Tri-County mask order approved

The Tri-County Health Department, which includes Adams and Arapahoe counties, approved its own mask order at a meeting that started at 4:30 p.m. Monday.

The board passed the measure with a 5-1 vote at around 6:40 p.m. 

> Watch the Tri-County meeting

The draft of the Tri-County Health Department order is similar to the Jefferson County draft except that it would remain in effect until at least Jan. 3 and until staffed ICU bed capacity in the region reaches 10% or more for 14 consecutive days.

Hospitalizations and bed capacity took center stage during the first portion of Monday’s meeting, which focused on the rationale for the proposed mask order. 

Starting Wednesday, people 2 years and older must wear a mask in all public indoor spaces. There are few exceptions.

The Tri-County Health Department also approved a Voluntary Vaccine Verification Program for businesses and events that is very similar to a program in Boulder County.

Like Boulder County, at least 95% of people inside the facility must be vaccinated. Approved businesses can be exempt from the mask requirement. Eligible facilities and events include bars, weddings, and gyms. 

Other counties considering orders

Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said during the Jeffco Board of Health meeting that Denver will be “announcing some things in the coming days.”

The City and County of Broomfield held a COVID-19 Council update Monday. Jason Vahling with Broomfield Public Health recommended a mask order in all city and county facilities for those age 2 and older, which fully vaccinated people could opt out of if they showed proof of vaccination. It’s not clear when the recommendation, if approved, would go into effect. 

> Watch the Broomfield County update

RELATED: CDPHE uses wastewater testing to monitor which COVID variants are spreading in Colorado

RELATED: ‘We have it in our power to end this pandemic,’ Polis encourages Coloradans to get vaccinated ahead of holidays

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