Metro Denver vaccine mandate to cover large indoor events
People attending large indoor events in six metro Denver counties during the holiday season will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination under a new state public health order issued Sunday as the virus surges across Colorado.
Anyone attending an unseated, indoor event of 500 or more people in Denver, Broomfield, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder and Jefferson counties will be required to show proof they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 beginning Nov. 19, according to an amended public health order released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The public health order lists “concerts, receptions, bars, dance halls and auctions” as examples of large unseated events.
Venues that already require patrons to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test may continue to use the testing option until Dec. 1, after which all attendees must demonstrate they’ve been vaccinated vaccination, according to the public health order.
The vaccine requirement will remain in place through Dec. 31, according to the order.
The move comes as the state faces the possibility of running out of hospital beds by the end of December if the current rate of COVID-19 hospitalization continues. Under state projections, more than 2,200 people could be hospitalized with the virus by Jan. 1, combining with patients with other non-COVID conditions to take up every available hospital bed in the state.
Gov. Jared Polis, who has so far declined to renew a statewide mask mandate, has previously said large venue vaccine mandates could help lower slow the virus’ spread. A spokesman for his office did not immediately return a request for comment Sunday.
State public health officials last week activated “crisis standards” governing hospital staffing and began discussing how to ration care should that become necessary.
“The strained hospital system is evidence we all need to do our part to help slow the spread of the virus within our community,” Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners Chair Nancy Jackson said in a Sunday news release.
The metro counties worked with the state health agency to coordinate the new vaccine mandate, the news release said. Douglas County, which recently left the Tri-County Health Department to start its own public health agency, is not included in the vaccine order.
The mandate will not apply to churches and places of worship. To be considered a seated event for the purposes of the vaccine mandate, according to the public health order, 100% of attendees must be seated. And venues can apply for an exception to the vaccine mandate if they show they have other comparable mitigating measures in place, according to the order.
As of Sunday evening, Colorado had the third-highest rate of new COVID-19 cases compared to population in the country, behind only Minnesota and a worsening New Mexico, according to the New York Times’ virus tracker.
On Friday, the most recent day for which data is available, 1,476 people with confirmed COVID-19 were hospitalized across Colorado, a level not seen since Dec. 13. At the worst point last year, 1,847 people were hospitalized with the virus.
According to state data, 81% of the people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
Ninety-four percent of the state’s intensive-care unit beds were occupied on Friday, with just 90 available. That, however, was an improvement over the worst point last week, when only 72 ICU beds were available.
The vaccine mandate only applies to events in the six named cities and counties, but Sunday’s amended public health order “strongly encouraged” all jurisdictions and venues to implement a mandate for indoor public events. Many large venues, including the Boulder Theater and seated facilities such as Denver’s Ball Arena, already had vaccine requirements in place.
A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment representative said nobody was available to discuss the order Sunday.
Updated 6:25 p.m. Nov. 14, 2021 Due to an editor’s error, the original headline on this story incorrectly stated what type of events will be covered by the new mandate. It applies to unseated events.
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