Coloradans will no longer be required by the state to wear masks in most public settings, and remaining statewide public health orders put in place to fight the COVID-19 pandemic will end June 1. This puts both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated residents on the honor system and no one knows how that’s going to turn out.
Gov. Jared Polis made the announcement on Friday, ending a week of whiplash in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suddenly announced it was dropping most social distancing and facemask-wearing requirements because of the high efficacy rates of the COVID-19 vaccines. But the announcement was at odds with state public health orders in many states, as well as the county-level public health orders that have been in place.
Under Colorado’s revised statewide order, said Polis, “unvaccinated people 11 and older will continue to be required to wear masks through the end of May in Colorado’s schools, child care facilities, emergency medical settings, prisons, jails, and homeless shelters.”
The sudden about-face (based, say public health experts on the science showing that the vaccines are extremely effective), has states, stores, and shoppers in a state of confusion. Some store brands are retaining their facemask and social distancing orders. Others are dropping them.
Facemasks are still required in many settings, from public transportation to schools, hospitals, and prisons. Local governments can still require them.
Parents are asking — what about my kids who are too young to be vaccinated? Small businesses are worried that this puts the onus of enforcement back on them. Municipalities and restaurants that have invested in more outdoor dining space are left wondering if the investment was necessary.
Some nurses’ unions are slamming the new CDC mask guidance. A portion of the population seems to be worried about the community as a whole; wondering how honest people are going to be about whether they are vaccinated or not.
Chaffee County says that it hopes to have a new public health order in place by mid-week. As of May 16, the county stood at 54.2 percent fully vaccinated residents; higher than the state’s fully vaccinated rate of 41.1 percent.
While 60 percent of U.S. adults have gotten at least one dose, there are wide regional variations in vaccination rates, as well as vast differences among even side-by-side counties. Rates of infections are varying widely as well. In Colorado, one data point makes the case for science: the state has documented that in counties where vaccination rates are higher, the rates of infection are dropping.