After previously encouraging face coverings but stopping short of requiring them, Jefferson County Public Health has issued a public health order requiring people in Jeffco to wear a face mask in public situations where six feet of social distance cannot be maintained.
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UPDATE: The Jefferson County mask order was followed on July 16 by a statewide mask order, issued by Gov. Jared Polis. On July 17, the Jefferson County Public Health department recinded the county order, in order to avoid confusion with the state order.
JCPH Executive Director Mark B. Johnson said the new order was being implemented in response to recent increases in COVID-19 cases in Jeffco as well as elsewhere in the Denver metro area.
According to a statement from JCPH, Jeffco saw 230 new COVID-19 cases last week, a three-fold increase from the 76 it saw during the week of June 14 when the county saw its lowest number of cases since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations have also started to increase in Jeffco and across the Denver area.
MORE: Tri-County health agency announces mandatory mask order
“As cases have started to increase sharply across the Denver Metro Area and in Jefferson County, we are looking at the tools we have to prevent the surges that are happening in other parts of our country, including bordering states, from happening here,” said Johnson in a statement announcing the new mask requirement. “While we have always strongly encouraged our residents to wear face coverings, we are joining others in the Denver Metro Area to take it a step further and make them mandatory.”
Some individual municipalities, including Golden and Wheat Ridge, had passed individual mask requirements.
Governor Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have both called on local communities to take action to increase mask wearing among their residents in recent days, noting significant benefits to public health and economic activity.
MORE: Governor Polis calls for a "summer without parties" to stem spread of virus
“We applaud JCPH for taking steps to increase mask wearing in Jefferson County,” said CPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker in the JCPH statement. “Evidence shows that when more people wear a mask, transmission of COVID-19 can be reduced, which means fewer people become ill with the virus and we can continue to rebuild our economy.”
The order includes several exemptions, including one for children four and under (JCPH says children under three should not wear a mask because there is a risk of suffocation). Other exempted activities include situations where a person is working alone in an enclosed room that other people outside one's family do not visit, people engaging in work activities such as operating equipment that would become unsafe if a mask were worn and driving in a private vehicle with members of the same household.
The order also mentions several “expressly permitted situations” where masks are not required, including eating and drinking at table in a restaurant and activities and dental procedures.
Those whose health would be negatively impacted by wearing a facemask, or who are unable to remove one without assistance, are also exempt from the order.
The order does apply to first responders (except when responding to an immediate threat) and office settings in which people from different where workers are unable to maintain six feet of distancing.
The order is set to expire at 6 a.m. on July 22. However, a hearing will be held during the scheduled Jefferson County Board of Health meeting on July 21 with a discussion on whether to amend or extend the order.
“Wearing a mask, along with social distancing, is one of the best things we can do to look out for one another right now,” Johnson said. “To me, when it means I'm helping keep my loved ones from getting very ill, and that we can all get back to normal a little sooner, it makes a great deal of sense.”
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