Adams, Arapahoe counties under new mask mandate starting Wednesday to reduce COVID-19 transmission

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AURORA | The Tri-County Board of Health, which governs the health department for Adams and Arapahoe counties, voted 5-1 Monday to reenact a mask mandate beginning Wednesday and lasting through Jan. 2. 

Jefferson County’s health department also voted Monday to re-enact and indoor mask mandate.

Dr. Thomas Fawell, who represents Arapahoe County, was the sole “no” vote on the Tri-County Health board.

Tri-County was one of several regional health departments pressing last week for Gov. Jared Polis to enact a statewide mask mandate and proof of vaccine requirements. Polis has steadfastly refused to enact statewide regulations but said he supports local efforts.

The mandate will require all children above age 2 and adults to wear face coverings in all indoor public places. It’ll stay in place either until Jan. 2 or when staffed ICU bed capacity falls to 10% or greater for 14 consecutive days. 

Currently staffed ICU bed availability in the region that covers Adams and Arapahoe counties is 5.8%, according to Tri-County health data.

People can remove masks to eat and drink at restaurants, speak to a hearing-impaired people, receive “personal, religious or medical” services, and give a public speech for broadcast or an audience if “they remain 12-foot distance from non-household members.”

People engaging in swimming, gymnastics, cheerleading and wrestling will not be required to wear a mask during those activities.

Board members also allowed businesses that implement a vaccination requirement for every person entering the establishment to request a mask exemption. 

The state has yet to force another mask mandate across Colorado or vaccination requirement outside of health care workers, but the federal government does require masks in airports and airplanes.

Tri-County board member Jan Brainard, a registered nurse, said during the Monday meeting that if people are willing to wear a mask for two hours in the airport and four to six hours in an airplane, they should be able to a wear a mask for 30 minutes in a local grocery store.

The Tri-County decision comes as mask mandates have been front and center among other county boards of health. Boulder and Larimer counties already have a mask mandate in effect. Broomfield and Denver counties are currently weighing a mandate as well. 

Dr. John Douglas, the director of the Tri-County Health Department, said the mandate is needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep local hospitals from exceeding capacity. Current models estimate a 48% chance of hospital demand exceeding 2,000 beds in the next seven weeks if no further actions are taken. 

“Even if Colorado hits its vaccination targets, there is a reasonable probability that Colorado exceeds hospital capacity in 2021 without additional interventions to reduce transmission or reduce disease severity,” he said during a presentation to the board Monday evening. 

Hospital capacity was expanded about 10 days after requiring masks in all indoor public places in Larimer County, Douglas continued. 

On Thursday, only 75 ICU beds were open statewide, according to state health officials. Speaking from the emergency operations center in Centennial, Gov. Jared Polis said that 500 additional hospital beds will be brought online within 20 days to help with capacity issues.

The board allowed 30 minutes of public comment, most of which was from residents fervently opposed to the mandate. 

“We did not undertake this because we enjoy exercising tyranny and power. We didn’t exercise it because we were looking to win a popularity contest in the community. We undertook this because our reading of the situation was that there were substantial downsides that we’re going to accrue if we breached hospital capacity and had to ration care,” Douglas with Tri-County said.

“We do think it is one of frankly the two things — with accelerated treatment, if we can get sufficient supply — that could tide us over this tight spot that’s coming as we experience more seasonal transmission and as we get better vaccination rates.”

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s c
s c
7 days ago

Arapahoe County Commissioners will be recalled.

SMF
SMF
7 days ago
Reply to  s c

It’s not the county commissioners that did this – it was Tri County Health Department. The Arapahoe County Commissioners are meeting right now and took over an hour to hear from their citizens. ZERO support for a mask mandate. ZERO support for vax mandate and vax passports.
The City of Aurora has already said that they will NOT be enforcing it. The vote will take place on Dec 6 when the new council members are sworn in. Other cities like Centennial, Lone Tree and Greenwood Village need to follow suit.

Olivia Castro
Olivia Castro
7 days ago
Reply to  SMF

Health board members are appointed by the county commissioners. Their inaction is causing harm to children.

Dave
Dave
7 days ago

Maybe, if you didn’t fire your healthcare workers you would have more capacity! Let’s at least present all the facts.

CoNative
CoNative
7 days ago

Great idea. about time we are back to protecting others. Thank you Tri-County.

Mike
Mike
7 days ago

Sorry but I won’t comply anymore!

Olivia Castro
Olivia Castro
7 days ago
Reply to  Mike

Tens of thousands are with you!

Ellen Woo
Ellen Woo
7 days ago

This is certainly a GOP move (although the council and mayor are supposed to be non-partisan); this show the disregard and lack of respect for the people/the community and public health and the lack of accountability that is going to be shown by these signees; public health should be the first priority; 2 years later and the state is in a worse condition regarding COVID; the city has no jurisdiction over county public health orders; would this same response be if e.coli were found in one the signees business??? stop the senseless rhetoric!!! from the signees! how many lives are they going to deny that have been taken by ignorance and lies? show respect and regard for others! and stop being the people of greed! this is one of the reasons Adams County chose to dissolve the relationship with Arapahoe County; Adams County=public health should be a priority

Karen
Karen
7 days ago
Reply to  Ellen Woo

Sounds more like a Democrat move to me! Keep you under their control, keep you in fear of everything, keep you so you don’t think for yourself yep pretty much a dumbocrap move! Oh and yes I’m a very conservative republican and damn proud of it

Concerned citizen
Concerned citizen
6 days ago

I guess Douglas County businesses will be grateful for the influx of business. Get rid of the tyranny and control. Let people take charge of their own healthcare.

Bob
Bob
11 hours ago

Pure stupidity. Appreciate the smart remark from the Dr. On the board regarding regarding only wearing a mask for 30 minutes in a grocery store. What about the people that are forced to work in Arapaho county? This includes all of the Tech Center. Required mask mandates are posted all over the building. What about the gym at the office building? I can’t breathe. How are you supposed to work out in a gym with a mask? You are idiots!! People are capable of making their own decisions. If you want to wear a mask? Fine. Don’t mandate it. It is Tyranny. It’s a control issue.