Colorado Ends Its School And Child Care Mask Mandate

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Co-teacher and coach Katie Dickinson takes students’ temperatures as in-person public school classes began on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, including at Centennial Elementary in Evans.

School children and staff in Colorado can expect a mask-free return to classes in the late summer, as long as vaccine acceptance continues to spread faster than variants of the virus causing COVID-19.

The state on Thursday released a new public health order removing the requirement that schools enforce masking. Any child care settings still following a mask mandate are now free to change their policies under the new state order, which means the most immediate impact is likely to be experienced at summer camps and early childhood centers.

Children younger than 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination. Clinical trials on younger age groups are now underway.

The state’s decision was not accompanied by comments from Gov. Jared Polis or state health leaders. But the health departments for Boulder and Denver immediately adopted the state’s approach.

“As we continue to hear of severe cases of illness and even death from COVID-19, it only serves as a reminder that these tragic outcomes are nearly all preventable now,” Denver Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Bob McDonald said in an emailed release. “Vaccination remains the best way to stop the spread of the virus and limit the severity of infections. Anyone who is fully vaccinated is also protected against coronavirus variants including the Delta variant. Vaccination is easier than ever. Vaccines are free, documentation is not required, and many locations offer walk-up appointments.”

Local public health agencies still have the option of imposing conditions stricter than the state, but there has been little appetite at the local level to take that step. The state's revised order technically expires Aug. 1, but if the virus remains in check, it seems unlikely that masks would return at that point.

The revised order also discontinues the mask requirement in state Division of Motor Vehicles offices.

The state will continue to require masks for unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated staff, residents, and visitors in jails, homeless shelters, and most healthcare settings. The federal government continues to require masks on public transportation, including airplanes, and Colorado courts require masks in public-facing settings.

Denver also removed all capacity restrictions on indoor and outdoor events.

Just short of 70 percent of Colorado adults have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, which is available to anyone 12 and older. The vaccines have driven down the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state, though the virus is still spreading, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates.

Mobile vaccination clinics will be scattered across the state over the July 4th weekend, starting with the Greeley Stampede Thursday night. A list of places the mobile lab will visit can be found here.