DENVER | Denver will mandate all city employees and private sector workers in high-risk settings to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 30, Mayor Michael Hancock announced Monday.
Denver’s public health measure applies to more than 10,000 municipal employees like police officers, firefighters, and sheriff’s deputies, the city said in a statement.
The public health order includes congregate care settings such as nursing homes, homeless shelters, hospitals, correctional facilities, Hancock said. It also applies to employees of public and private schools and higher education institutions in Denver County, officials said.
After Sept. 30, workers who do not get vaccinated but are required to do so under the mandate will not be allowed to work onsite, city officials said in a statement.
On Friday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced that state employees who do not show proof of vaccination will have to get tested twice a week and wear masks at the office.
He said that while the increase in virus cases is worrisome, it’s not the crisis Colorado faced last year because of the increasing rate of vaccination.
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Polis said Monday. But he said state officials don’t expect a wave of hospitalizations to jeopardize the health-care system because of the number of residents already inoculated against the virus.
Amid the rise in coronavirus cases due to the delta variant, Polis said Monday that he’s monitoring Israel’s decision to give COVID-19 booster shots to vaccinated people over 60 years old. The Democratic governor also said that he’s urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to review the viability of Pfizer’s third vaccine dose as a booster shot.
Polis said that that some Colorado residents have already gotten third doses of the vaccine despite the lack of federal guidance or approval by using fake names to get around health providers who won’t administer third shots to fully inoculated patients.
“Other than anecdotally, we don’t have any information about that,” Polis said “But we certainly are aware that many Coloradans — particularly most vulnerable Coloradans — are perhaps a little bit ahead of the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and want to get that booster shot immediately.”
Polis and state health officials backed the CDC decision last week to recommend vaccinated and unvaccinated people return to wearing masks in public, indoor places. When asked why the recommendation isn’t a mandate, given the data on the effectiveness of masks to reduce the virus transmission, Polis said the level of “emergency” doesn’t warrant a mandate.
“We’re not seeing that level of hospitalizations,” Polis said. He added that the best protection for residents and others around them remains vaccination, and that returning to masks as the lead strategy for mitigating the virus might undermine a focused push for more vaccination.
Because of the contagious nature of the delta variant which has led to increased coronavirus cases across many U.S. states, McDonald said the city’s original goal of 70% of fully vaccinated residents “is not gonna get us where we need to be.”
The decision came as Denver’s average daily infection rates have increased from 15 to almost 70, average daily positivity rates have risen from 1.0% to above 3% and amid more COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, officials said in a statement.
City officials said they expect supervisors to be responsible for employee compliance and to maintain records of their vaccinated staff. If the city receives a complaint of someone working onsite without being vaccinated, officials said they will work with employers before imposing penalties.
“Many cities across the country are moving in this very direction,” Hancock said of mandating vaccines for municipal workers.
At his Monday press conference, Polis said that the state’s hospitalizations have increased over the last few weeks to 358 people.
He also praised the state’s $100 Walmart gift card vaccination giveaway, adding that there’s been a 25-person per day increase in vaccinations since the campaign’s announcement compared to the rest of July.