Colorado mask mandate ending as Polis shifts to recommendations, not requirements

Coloradans who are two weeks out from their final COVID-19 shot can take off their masks in nearly all settings, Gov. Jared Polis announced Friday afternoon.

And people who aren’t vaccinated no longer must wear masks in public settings — but it’s recommended they still do, the governor said.

“We are going from mask-wearing requirements to mask-wearing suggestions and guidance,” Polis said at a news conference.

The announcement comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance that fully vaccinated people could safely go without masks in most public spaces. It still recommends that vaccinated people wear masks on public transportation, in hospitals and in crowded settings like prisons and homeless shelters.

Polis, similarly, said masks still will be required in certain settings such as schools, hospitals and prisons until June 1.

“The pandemic is not yet over, but if you are vaccinated, it is largely over for you,” Polis said, encouraging people who aren’t yet vaccinated to get inoculated.

Colorado’s statewide order required masks for indoor settings where 10 or more people are present, and fewer than 80% are known to be vaccinated, such as grocery stores, indoor entertainment venues and schools.

The CDC’s recommendations are purely advisory, leaving it up to states and other levels of government to set policies for their jurisdictions.

Private businesses can still require customers and staff to wear masks.

Target and Home Depot have announced that they will continue requiring all customers to wear masks for the foreseeable future, while Trader Joe’s has said only unvaccinated people need to mask up, according to The Washington Post.

It’s not clear how stores will determine if customers can safely go without masks, and the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents about 1.3 million people working in food processing and retail, said the ambiguity creates problems.

“Millions of Americans are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated, but essential workers are still forced to play mask police for shoppers who are unvaccinated and refuse to follow local COVID safety measures. Are they now supposed to become the vaccination police?” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement.

Dr. Rich Besser, a former acting director of the CDC who is now president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told NBC News that it would be impractical to enforce a mask mandate only on unvaccinated people.

“It will be the honor system. If they decide not to wear a mask, the risk is primarily to themselves,” he said Friday morning.

Representatives for the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment and Tri-County Health Department said they would wait to see the state’s new order before deciding whether to enact local rules.

The CDC still recommends that people who haven’t been fully vaccinated keep wearing masks indoors, or at outdoor gatherings with other people who aren’t fully vaccinated. It also advises people with compromised immune systems to talk with their doctors before they stop wearing masks, because their bodies may not have responded to the vaccine.

Some in public health see the new recommendations as a way to encourage reluctant people to get the vaccine, while others worry about increased transmission if unvaccinated people stop wearing masks.

“On one hand, people may feel more incentivized to get the vaccine if they see that by getting the vaccine, they no longer have to wear a mask and can resume pre-pandemic activities,” Rupali J. Limaye, an associate scientist in global disease epidemiology and control at Johns Hopkins University, told SciLine.  “On the other hand, it may not be enough of an incentive to get the vaccine, and may signal to people that they can go maskless while being unvaccinated, as there is no way to know who is vaccinated and who is not. This could lead to a situation where those that are unvaccinated may be maskless in settings where there are other unvaccinated individuals, leading to higher risk of exposure.”

Source: Read Full Article