Governor Polis Lets Coloradans Rip Off Their Masks

Colorado Governor Jared Polis holds up a face mask to make a point during a news conference to update the status of the state’s efforts against the coronavirus Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

As Vaccinations Approach 40 Percent Statewide Mask Mandates Cease

Last week, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced that people who were fully vaccinated no longer had to wear masks while in most indoor settings. The CDC also said that fully vaccinated people did not have to wear face coverings outdoors even in crowded settings.

After the CDC made its announcement, several states released their mandatory mask orders. The day after the CDC changed its mask requirements, Colorado Governor Jared Polis decided to end the state’s mandatory mask mandate for most indoor settings.

However, Polis did say that it was recommended that people who are not vaccinated wear a mask when they are in a building with ten or more people. “We are going from mask-wearing requirements to mask-wearing suggestions and guidance,” Polis said at a news conference.

He did say though, that people would still be required to wear masks in certain settings such as schools, child care facilities, emergency medical settings, prisons, jails and homeless shelters through the end of March. But, starting June 1, the state won’t require anyone to wear masks in any building, and all state mandates regarding COVID-19 will end. School districts, businesses and local governments, though, could still require that masks be worn.

The governor said that he hopes his move releasing the mask mandate will help motivate people to get vaccinated. “The pandemic is not yet over, but if you are vaccinated, it is largely over for you,” Polis said. “This is a matter of personal responsibility.”

Once the news broke some businesses came out and said that they will still require their customers and employees to wear masks, but some said they wouldn’t. King Soopers and Home Depot announced last Friday that they will still require masks to be worn inside their stores. However, Walmart and Costco said that they would not require masks to be worn, but they recommend that unvaccinated people still wear masks while inside their outlets.

Local Vaccination Numbers on the Rise

During last week’s Teller County Board of Commissioners meeting, Interim Public Health Director Martha Hubbard gave a presentation to the board giving them an update on all things related to COVID-19. The good news, according to Hubbard, is that Teller County has now vaccinated over 18,000 people or 41 percent of the eligible population.

The county health department administered a good portion of those, but they also partnered with local medical groups and pharmacies to reach that number. Currently, vaccinations are available in Teller County by appointment at the county health department, or through local doctor’s offices and pharmacies.

Hubbard also said that vaccinations are now available to anyone over 12 years old versus the minimum age being 16 previously. “We are glad they have now gone down to age 12 for those who are now eligible to get the vaccine,” Hubbard said. “It will make our numbers look a little less, but in reality it will be really good for our community to be able to get children vaccinated. In the long run, it will help us in the outbreaks and in our positivity rate of COVID-19.”

For the bad news, Hubbard said that hospitalization rates are on the rise locally. But, she said that the median age of those hospitalized is 48. This is good news because the vulnerable population of those aged 70 and older is no longer the group being hospitalized the most. This is due to the fact that many in that age group have been fully vaccinated.

Hubbard also reported that the Pikes Peak region is seeing an increase in how many people are in intensive care units (ICU). She said that as of the last report, the region has 97 percent of their ICU beds occupied. However, although the medical centers are closely monitoring the situation to see if surge beds are needed, the region usually sits at about an 85 percent ICU bed occupancy rate even in the pre-pandemic era.

As of last week’s numbers, the county has had 1,744 positive cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic struck in March 2020. Still the majority (60 percent) has come from Woodland Park. Cripple Creek and Victor remain at the bottom of the list with a total of 157 cases between the two cities, which amounts to 9 percent of the total cases.

The seven day case count has stayed between 40 and 60 per 100,000 people. The county has seen 120 hospitalizations and 16 deaths with the last hospitalization occurring on May 9.

Testing for COVID-19 is still available at the Hayden Park in Divide from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays.