City of Denver will enforce “far-reaching” vaccine mandate
In response to a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations fueled by the Delta variant, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock announced Monday the city will require many of its highly exposed residents to be vaccinated by the end of September.
“After considerable deliberation and consultation with public health experts, including my chief public health officer, Executive Director Bob McDonald, I am approving a far-reaching public health order mandating that all city employees as well as private sector workers in high-risk settings be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 30.”
Hancock said, over the past six months, 96% of Denver’s COVID-19 hospitalized individuals have been unvaccinated. Over 70% of eligible Coloradans have been fully vaccinated, and 61% of eligible Denver residents have done so.
In addition to over 10,000 Denver employees, the mandate will apply to individuals working in nursing homes, homeless shelters, hospitals, and correctional facilities. It will also include “certain categories” of city volunteers and contractors. The mayor added the city will support “narrow exemptions” to the order based on religious or medical reasons.
“The silver bullet we need for full recovery is to ensure maximum vaccination. We are committed to keeping businesses and the economy open while ensuring that employers and employees feel safe in the workplace.”
COVID-19 case counts in Denver have more than tripled since June, according to Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and the Environment.
McDonald said Denver’s COVID-19 case count is rising at a higher rate than this time last year.
“When we generally would get a little bit of a seasonal break, we are seeing a spike faster now this year than we did last year at this time, after all of our efforts.”
The city’s rise in cases is accompanied by stalled vaccination rates.
Denver’s mandate comes on the heels of Gov. Jared Polis’s announcement that state employees will need to either be fully vaccinated or tested twice a week starting Sept. 20. In his weekly update on COVID-19 in Colorado on Monday, Gov. Jared Polis encouraged Coloradans to get vaccinated, saying of the situation:
“We expect it to get worse before it gets better.”
Despite the state’s high vaccination rate, Polis emphasized that vaccines are still the most effective way to combat the virus, as wearing masks — while still important — isn’t as protective against the highly transmissible Delta variant.
Hancock made similar remarks concerning the efficacy of vaccines:
“While masking and social distancing are important tools to protect those who have not been vaccinated, and may even be useful for particularly vulnerable people who’ve been vaccinated, the truth is that these measures are no substitute for what we need to shut the virus down for good.”