Colorado to require vaccines at certain indoor events

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Vaccines will be required at indoor, unseated events with more than 500 people in certain Colorado counties.

DENVER — COVID-19 vaccines will now be required at indoor, unseated events with more than 500 people in certain Colorado counties, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said Sunday. 

An amended public health order requires that everyone be vaccinated at indoor, unseated events with more than 500 people in Arapahoe, Adams, Boulder, and Jefferson counties, as well as the City and County of Denver and the City and County of Broomfield. 

The amended public health order takes effect Friday, Nov. 19 and will be effective through Dec. 31. It applies to everyone 12 and older.

The public health order allows venues to accept negative COVID-19 tests as an option until Dec. 1. After that, the venues will need to require proof of full vaccination.

The order does not apply to houses of worship. 

On Wednesday, Gov. Jared Polis announced the state would be implementing a series of steps, including “making indoor events safer,” as Colorado’s hospital capacity hits an all-time low. 

Polis cited Denver’s Ball Arena as an example of increasing the safety of indoor events. Event-goers at the venue who aren’t fully vaccinated have to show proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours prior to an event. Also, anyone over 2 years old must wear a mask at all times, regardless of vaccination status.

“We can’t afford super-spreader events,” Polis said Wednesday, adding that the state was working with cities and venues to expand indoor safety protocols.

The new public health order is a result of coordination between the state and the affected counties, CDPHE said in a release. 

“I actually wonder how many businesses would be impacted by this,” said Dr. Comilla Sasson, an ER doctor who has treated COVID patients around the country throughout the pandemic.

She had a hard time squaring the order with the images of the Broncos game Sunday, with more than 70,000 fans packed into Empower Field at Mile High as the team took on the Philadelphia Eagles. Sasson, who is fully vaccinated with a booster shot, said she hasn’t attended a sporting event since the start of the pandemic because of the potential exposure.

As an outdoor venue, Empower Field at Mile High has not implemented a vaccine mandate and only kindly asks fans to wear masks during the game. Images of the fans from the TV broadcast Sunday showed very few people complying with that request and wearing a mask.

“We sort of think if we’re vaccinated or we’re outdoors we’re totally in the clear, but I think there’s enough data to say that actually isn’t the case,” Sasson said. 

She uses a metaphor to describe the exposure, saying you can picture someone smoking a cigarette in the section near you.

“If somebody was smoking in front of me, I could see that, I could feel it. I would know it’s there and I would know to avoid it and do whatever I could to avoid it,” she said. “But we don’t look at COVID like that.”

Sasson said droplets could stay in the air longer than people might expect, and since you can’t see or smell the virus, people without masks face potential exposure. 

With a lack of restrictions, many who have been vaccinated wonder what precautions they should take in a state where COVID is spreading as fast as it was last fall, when there was no vaccine and plenty of restrictions.

“I think it’s really important for people to know:  don’t stop living life, because we have to live life. That’s what this is all about,” Sasson said. “But we have to do it safely.”

Sasson said she wears a mask in all public places these days. She also tries to pick places where she knows the ventilation is adequate and the potential for spread is low.

“I think it’s all about feeling empowered and giving people a sense of control in this really chaotic time,” she said.

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