Gov. Jared Polis on Friday announced changes to the state’s mask mandate that allow for looser restrictions in 31 counties currently under level green of the state’s COVID-19 “dial.”
In counties in level green, the least restrictive, masks starting Saturday are not required in many public spaces, except in schools (including extracurricular activities), child care centers, indoor children’s camps, state government facilities, congregate care and correctional facilities, emergency medical and other health care settings, personal services and limited health care settings, according to a new executive order.
“This modified mask order is a step towards the light at the end of the tunnel, and it acknowledges a transition away from most requirements for those counties in level green with very low transmission, 35 cases or less out of every 100,000, and the great achievement they have made towards ending the pandemic,” Polis said in a press release.
In counties that are in level blue, yellow, orange, red and purple on the COVID dial, masks must still be worn in the spaces listed above, as well as in indoor public spaces where 10 or more people who are unvaccinated are gathering. Mask wearing is only required for people who are age 11 or older. This includes all metro Denver and Front Range counties, as well as El Paso, Pueblo and Weld counties.
The state’s mask mandate has remained relatively unchanged since it was implemented in July 2020. The updated mandate extends until May 2. Local jurisdictions are still allowed to implement their own restrictions. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced on Thursday that the city’s mask mandate will remain in effect until at least early May regardless of what the state does.
The loosening of the mandate comes the same day as Colorado’s vaccine eligibility floodgates opened. As of Friday, anyone 16 or older is eligible to sign up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The changes also come as President Joe Biden and leaders within the Centers for Disease Control have pleaded with states to pump the brakes on loosening restrictions too quickly.
In a video shared by NBC News on March 29, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pleaded with people to take the rising cases in the United States seriously.
“I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” Walensky said. “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But right now I’m scared.”