COVID In Colorado: Public Health Officials Call For More Action From State

After the state implemented a new vaccine requirement for large indoor events in the Denver metro area, public health officials are saying more needs to be done to curb the state’s status in the pandemic.

“This continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” said Scott Bookman, the COVID-19 Incident Commander. “What we can’t afford right now is a large super spreader event happening. And so, working on a vaccine passport like this, vaccine for entry, allows us to mitigate the potential of that happen.”

The new vaccine requirement for indoor events “unseated” of more than 500 people is in place for six metro area counties including Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson, Broomfield, and Boulder. Vaccine rates are near 80% in each county.

“I think this was a good start that needs to be followed by more,” said Dr. Bill Burman, the Executive Director of the Public Health Institute at Denver Health.

The counties under the vaccine requirement sent a joint letter to the state asking for more to be done because of the threat to hospital capacity. One request, which Gov. Jared Polis has said is unnecessary, is a mask mandate.

“We have multiple examples of states that do have a mask mandates and are doing quite well: Washington, Oregon, Hawaii. I think that Colorado would consider that Washington, Oregon are states with many similarities to our own. A large urban population, a substantial rural population, significant rates of vaccination that are quite comparable to Colorado. So, I think those are two examples, where it appears that mask mandates are helping to moderate the delta variant surge,” said Dr. Burman.

The counties asked the state for a regional or unified message to send while hospitalizations continue to creep near the record. Expanding the vaccine requirement for more indoor settings was another option, like restaurants.

“We know they’re fairly high risk for COVID transmission, people sit close together in an indoor space and talk. Those are the ingredients of COVID transmission,” Dr. Burman said. “Masking and vaccine passports are a thing that can help cut down transmission today, tomorrow, this week.”

The state leaders are reluctant to make more drastic measures, like they’ve done earlier in the pandemic.

“While we see cases rising, we do know that every county has different needs and different states of disease right now. It’s important that those decisions are still made at the local level,” Bookman said. “Our local elected officials have the ability to take the steps that they need within their jurisdictions to control the spread of this pandemic.”

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