DENVER — The public health order requiring masks in Denver schools will end on Feb. 25, the City and County of Denver announced Wednesday morning.
The order, which applies to both schools and childcare facilities, will officially end at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Feb 25. It went into effect on Aug. 9, 2021.
This move comes in the wake of a drop in COVID-19 cases in Denver and the surrounding areas, as well as the City of Denver expiring its indoor face covering order on Feb. 4.
“Coming out of omicron, we’re now at a different phase of the pandemic,” said Dr. Steven Federico, director of pediatrics for Denver Health and DPS' partner. “The focus moving forward needs to be on vaccination — including boosters for teens and adults, as well staying home and getting tested when we’re sick. The lifting of this mandate does not mean that individuals should not or cannot mask.”
According to the city, Denver's case counts are decreasing, rates of severe disease are low, and vaccination rates remain high. About 80% of people 5 years old and older in Denver have been vaccinated. The current case rate in Denver is 305.6 for every 100,000 residents, according to city data.
Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said this is a viable step given the city's COVID-19 data.
"We are supportive of any additional measures our schools put in place, as needed, to continue in-person learning," he said.
Individuals who are not vaccinated or who are immunocompromised should wear face coverings, the city recommends. Masks can provide yet another defense against COVID-19 for those fully vaccinated and boosted.
The Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) is working with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment on outbreak, quarantine and isolation guidance for schools, the city said. Additional details are coming next week.
Bob McDonald, DDPHE executive director, said the department will monitor the schools and react if anything changes.
School Board Vice President Tay Anderson said he had sent an email to the board president and superintendent asking the school board to take a vote on ending the mask mandate at the Feb. 24 meeting.
"Our communities deserve the opportunity to engage on this topic regardless of where they stand on the issue," Anderson wrote. "If this board voted down the recommendation from DDPHE, we would communicate that we will remain a 'Mask Mandated School District' until further notice. Our constituents deserve transparency and should know where each of us stands on this critical issue."
Masks are still required on public transportation, which includes school buses.
“With the current decline in severe cases and the high rates of immunity that we’re seeing, it is safe to lift the school mask mandate at this time,” said Dr. Sterling McLaren, Denver’s chief medical officer. “The best way to protect children is to make sure they stay up to date with their vaccinations and ensure that the adults around them are vaccinated as well.”