With COVID-19 hospitalizations surging in Colorado, the Board of Health of the Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) voted Monday during a special meeting to issue a public health order requiring masking in all public indoor spaces in Adams and Arapahoe counties. The public health order will be in effect Wednesday, November 24, 2021, through January 2, 2022, and thereafter until staffed ICU beds availability is above 10%. Currently staffed ICU bed availability in the North Central Region that covers Adams and Arapahoe counties is 5.8 percent.
“Masks have proven to be effective in reducing the spread of this virus, especially when combined with other prevention efforts” said John M. Douglas, Jr., MD, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department (TCHD), “With the holiday season upon us, this order is necessary to try to avoid hospital capacity being breached by a growing number of hospitalizations and running the risk of having to ration medical care.”
This Order follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that all persons 2 years of age and older, including fully-vaccinated individuals, should wear face coverings indoors in public in areas with high rates of community transmission, which currently includes Adams and Arapahoe counties. As of Monday Nov. 22, Adams County’s seven-day rate of new infections is 346/100,000 and thus far in November there have been 232 persons hospitalized with COVID-19 and 40 deaths. In Arapahoe County the current case rate is 303/100,000, with 202 hospitalizations and 24 deaths thus far in November. Hospital capacity remains extremely tight, with ICU bed utilization at 93% in Adams County and 100% in Arapahoe County.
“While getting vaccinated is still the best way to prevent transmission of COVID-19, we could still breach hospital capacity if we do not take additional prevention measures,” Douglas said. “Masking indoors provides us another tool to keep ICU beds available for people coming in for a range of conditions such as heart attacks and auto accidents that need those beds.”
Exemptions from the public health order include individuals under age 2, those individuals who cannot medically tolerate a face mask, and businesses and facilities that implement a voluntary Vaccine Verification Program using a policy that assures full vaccination of all employees, staff, guests, and customers.
Statewide, Colorado has a growing crisis in hospital capacity, particularly in staffed ICU beds. There are more than 1,500 individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and hospitals are at about 95% capacity including non-COVID-19 patients. Of the COVID-19 hospitalizations, 82% are unvaccinated, according to CDPHE data.
TCHD’s order was developed in collaboration with other health departments in the metro region and comes after the Metro Denver Partnership for Health (MDPH), sent a letter to Governor Polis November 12, urging him to issue a statewide mask mandate. MDPH is comprised of Boulder County Public Health, Broomfield Department of Public Health and Environment, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, Jefferson County Public Health, the Tri-County Health Department and the Public Health Institute at Denver Health.
Visit www.tchd.org/coronavirus for data on number of cases, incidence rate, hospitalizations, and deaths and mask usage in your community.