On July 8, 2020, the Board of Health of the Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) approved a public health order to require face coverings when out in public where social distancing cannot be maintained, with an opt-out provision for each county and city in our jurisdiction. On July 16, Governor Polis issued a statewide order requiring the use of face coverings. Given rising statewide rates of COVID-19 cases, TCHD appreciates this action by the Governor.
Because the original TCHD order includes provisions that the Governor’s does not, our order will remain in effect. Key differences in the TCHD order are the inclusion of the requirement for face-coverings in outdoor locations when 6 feet of social distancing cannot be maintained and a longer duration (up to 90 days rather than 30 days). While we believe that the risk of COVID-19 transmission is greater indoors than outdoors, we believe that close contact without a face covering even in the outdoors can provide risk. We also believe that there is virtually no reason to believe that transmission parameters will have improved sufficiently in the next 30 days to reduce the importance of wearing face coverings, especially since that timeframe includes the hoped-for re-opening of our schools, and hence the longer time period can provide greater benefit. The impact of the mandate and determination of its duration will be based primarily on parameters of the epidemic (eg, incidence rates, hospitalizations and bed capacity, and deaths) and measures of mask compliance.
The Governor’s order went into effect yesterday at midnight for the entire state, while the TCHD order does not take effect until July 24, 2020. For the TCHD order, cities and counties within the TCHD jurisdiction have until July 23, 2020, to opt-out of the order if they choose. However, any jurisdiction that does opt-out of the TCHD order will remain under the statewide mask order for its duration. Apart from the inclusion of outdoor spaces and the longer duration, the TCHD order will be amended to be consistent with parameters of the statewide order to avoid confusion. These changes will include raising the age of exemption to 10 years. Both orders exempt persons with medical conditions who are unable to tolerate wearing a face covering.
“TCHD believes that consistent wearing of face coverings by as many of us as possible will be critical in controlling COVID-19 transmission for the duration of the epidemic, and will support our businesses and schools staying open. We think steps to ensure wearing of face coverings are appropriate, just as we have adopted measures such as not smoking in indoor places or driving while intoxicated in order to protect others, ” said John Douglas, Jr., MD and Executive Director of the Tri-County Health Department. “We appreciate the support of everyone in our communities to help us routinize the use of this key prevention strategy, along with social distancing, avoidance of large groups, regular hand hygiene, staying home when sick, and cooperation with public health investigations for those who do test positive for COVID-19.”
For more information about what this means for you and frequently asked questions, visit https://covid19.colorado.gov/mask-guidance. Also, for data about masks and COVID-19 in the Tri-County Health Department’s jurisdiction visit www.tchd.org/coronavirus.
Tri-County Health Department serves over 1.5 million people in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties. It provides over 60 programs and services including birth certificates, immunizations, WIC, restaurant inspections, family planning, STI/HIV Testing, and infectious disease investigations. For more information, visit www.tchd.org Twitter @TCHDHealth or Facebook @cotchd.