Colorado local mask mandates will beat back COVID, officials hope
Colorado’s top pandemic official downplayed the possibility of bringing back a statewide mask mandate or other restrictions to quell the state’s fifth wave of COVID-19.
Earlier this week, the chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the state was preparing for the possibility of new mandates if local health departments and individual businesses don’t take action to rein in the virus’ spread.
On Wednesday, Scott Bookman, the state’s COVID-19 incident commander, said decisions should happen on the local level, given counties are experiencing different levels of transmission. No specific point, such as the percentage of hospital beds available dipping below a certain threshold, has been set to trigger state intervention, he said.
“We still believe that local control and local orders are the best way to ensure the correct mitigation measures are in place,” he said.
The state is continuing to talk with hospitals and local health departments about how to manage the surge in COVID-19 infections, Bookman said. He pointed to Larimer County’s decision to reimpose a mask mandate last week as an example of leadership.
Over the past week, Colorado has had an average of 959 acute-care beds — the kind used for general hospital care — and about 125 intensive-care beds available any given day, Bookman said. At the December peak, about 1,800 acute-care beds were available, because while there were more COVID-19 patients, fewer people were in the hospital because of accidents or other illnesses, he said.
“At this point, we are starting to see real, real tight capacity in multiple parts of the state,” he said.
So far, there’s no sign the situation is about to turn around, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said. The percentage of tests coming back positive has increased, which suggests cases and hospitalizations will continue to rise in the near future, she said.
School-aged children, between 5 and 17, continue to have the highest rates of new COVID-19 cases, followed by adults, Herlihy said. Cases in younger children are lower, and relatively stable, she said.
“For those that are 12 to 17, many of those cases are preventable,” she said.
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