Six Denver metro counties will require proof of vaccination at unseated, indoor events with 500 or more people

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Zachary Smart, 11, of Denver, holds an “I Got Vaccinated” sticker after he gets his first COVID-19 vaccination Tuesday, November 9, 2021 at National Jewish Hospital in Denver.

Updated Nov. 15, 2021 at 3:44 p.m.

People will soon have to prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19 before they can attend unseated, indoor events with 500 or more people, according to a new state health order covering six counties within the Denver metro.

The new order, which applies to Denver, Arapahoe, Adams, Boulder, Broomfield, and Jefferson counties, will take effect Friday and remain in place through the remainder of the year. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment includes “concerts, receptions, bars, dance halls, and auctions” in their definition of indoor events. Religious houses of worship are excluded from the order. 

“I am grateful for the counties that are coordinating with the state to slow the spread of the virus. Large venues and local governments are part of the solution to ending the pandemic,” CDPHE executive director Jill Ryan said in a statement.

To be considered a seated event by the CDPHE, 100 percent of attendees must be seated. Those events are exempt from the order, and some large, seated venues, like Denver’s Ball Arena, already require proof of vaccination for entry.

According to CDPHE COVID-19 incident commander Scott Bookman, the order aims to eliminate superspreader events, which is why the threshold for vaccine mandates sits at 500 attendees. He also claimed unseated events pose a greater risk than seated events. 

“When you have people who are seated, you have the ability to ensure that there's spacing between people easier to enforce those indoor mask rules that a lot of these venues have in place,” Bookman said. 

The order is restricted to the six counties named, but other municipalities are encouraged to adopt similar mandates for venues. 

“I think it’s 80 percent of the venues in the state are right here in the Denver metro area,” Bookman said.

Mandating vaccines at large events will continue the state’s recent trend of attempting to curb the virus without introducing widespread closures or restrictions. Last week, Gov. Jared Polis promoted monoclonal antibody treatment options and made vaccine boosters available for everyone older than 18, a move that has yet to be approved by federal agencies.

Colorado is projected to exceed its hospital capacity in the coming weeks. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been steadily trending upwards since the end of summer. So far, 62 percent of people 12 and older have gotten fully vaccinated, but vaccinations have lagged in rural areas. 

A majority of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. According to the CDPHE, vaccinated people are 8.9 times less likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than those who are unvaccinated. 

CPR’s John Daley contributed to this story.

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