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Colorado announces vaccine mandate for certain indoor events as Mountain West states grapple with Covid-19 surge

<i>David Zalubowski/AP</i><br/>Gatherings of more than 500 people in parts of metro Denver will require attendees to provide proof of vaccination. A dose of Pfizer pediatric Covid-19 vaccine is administered to a young patient in east Denver.
David Zalubowski/AP
Gatherings of more than 500 people in parts of metro Denver will require attendees to provide proof of vaccination. A dose of Pfizer pediatric Covid-19 vaccine is administered to a young patient in east Denver.

By Travis Caldwell and Joe Sutton, CNN

With hospitals throughout Colorado facing increases in Covid-19 hospitalizations, state officials announced that attendees of large public indoor events in certain jurisdictions must be vaccinated in order to help curb the virus’ spread.

Gatherings of more than 500 people in parts of metro Denver will require attendees to provide proof of vaccination, according to an amended public health order released Sunday, with exceptions provided to places of worship.

Colorado is one of several Mountain West states hit hard by a coronavirus surge this fall, driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant as more than 150,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 since June.

The state also reactivated its crisis standards of care last week for staffing of health care systems, allowing for greater flexibility for hospitals to shift personnel and resources to handle the latest wave of Covid-19 patients.

Seven states — all west of the Mississippi River — have at least 30% of ICU beds filled with Covid-19 patients, according to Sunday data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. Montana leads the nation at around 44%, followed by New Mexico, Colorado and Idaho.

In New Mexico, where the seven-day rolling average of new Covid-19 cases is again topping 1,000 per day, the state’s two largest hospital systems announced Thursday that they are moving to “crisis standards of care” to allow for rationing of services when needed. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also extended a statewide mask requirement within all indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status, through at least December 10.

Elsewhere in the region, troops from the Wyoming National Guard have been assisting hospitals overwhelmed by Covid-19 since September following Gov. Mark Gordon’s order.

Idaho, which has dealt with some of the highest rates of Covid-19 hospitalizations in the nation since the surge, had its first confirmed Covid-19 child death in October when an infant passed away from the virus, health officials said Tuesday.

“Our hearts go out to the family of this child,” said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator for the Idaho Division of Public Health. “Infection with the virus can have devastating impacts on families, and this situation highlights the seriousness of Covid-19.”

Colorado works to curb superspreader events

While states such as Colorado and New Mexico have higher rates of vaccination than others like Idaho and Wyoming, millions of Americans in the region remain unvaccinated and at substantially higher risk for severe Covid-19 symptoms.

Citing the importance of vaccination as well as concerns over superspreader risks, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) announced the new regulations at public indoor events.

“Arapahoe, Adams, Boulder, Jefferson counties — as well as the City and County of Denver, and the City and County of Broomfield will enact extra protocols to prevent superspreader events. The protocols require that everyone be vaccinated at indoor, unseated events with more than 500 people,” CDPHE said in a news release.

The protocols are expected to go into effect Friday, November 19.

“The order also recommends that counties adopt vaccine requirements for employees in high-risk settings,” CDPHE said.

“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,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of CDPHE.

“We also need all Coloradans to do their part by getting vaccinated if they haven’t already; getting a booster; and following basic public health precautions like masking, staying home when sick, and handwashing,” she said.

Gov. Jared Polis declared the entire state as high risk for exposure or transmission of Covid-19 in an executive order Thursday, expanding access to booster vaccinations to any resident over the age of 18 and six months past their first rounds of inoculation.

Regarding the state’s reactivation of crisis standards of care over staffing, officials say hospitals will be well-positioned to provide care.

“We want to be sure Coloradans know they can and should continue to access necessary health care. If you’re sick and need care, please go get it,” said Dr. Eric France, CDPHE chief medical officer. “Activating staffing crisis standards of care allows health care systems to maximize the care they can provide in their communities with the staff they have available.”

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CNN’s Jennifer Henderson, Ana Cabrera, Andy Rose, Jenn Selva, Amanda Sealy and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

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