On Sunday, May 2, Gov. Jared Polis announced he amended and extended the statewide mask order for 30 days, or until June 1.
The indoor mask order to guard against the spread of the COVID-19 virus remains in effect for all schools and certain other settings. For counties with greater than 35 cases per 100,000 people, the indoor mask order applies to groups of 10 or more unvaccinated people indoors and there remains no outdoor mask order. The order was further amended to allow indoor spaces where more than 10 people are present to go without masks, so long as at least 80 percent of those individuals are fully vaccinated, the governor's office said in a release.
"Vaccines not only protect you and your loved ones from getting this deadly virus but also allows Colorado to return back to normal," the release said. "Reaching a high level of immunity is what will allow for a life without masks, but before that is possible, many more Coloradans need to get vaccinated."
Other mask-wearing continues to be required in all counties in schools (including extracurricular activities), child care centers, indoor children’s camps, public-facing state government facilities, congregate care facilities, prisons, jails, emergency medical and other health care settings, and personal services and limited health care settings.
In counties with one-week disease incidence rates in excess of 35 per 100,000, masks must also be worn in all public indoor spaces when 10 or more unvaccinated individuals or individuals of unknown vaccination status are present, except in situations that meet the requirements of the new amendment. In counties with one-week disease incidence rates less than 35 per 100,000 (Level Green), mask wearing is not required if there are 10 or more people who are unvaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown.
Statewide, 33 percent, or 1.9 million, of the population had been vaccinated as of the beginning of May.
In El Paso County, 180,470, or 25 percent of the population, had been vaccinated.
The incidence rate of 35 per 100,000 will be a high hurdle for El Paso County to reach, considering its incidence rate as of May 1 was 249 over the preceding 7-day period — or seven times the level at which mask wearing can be relaxed.
Phoebe Lostroh, a microbiology professor at Colorado College, issued her regular report on May 1, noting:
"The trends are concerning because levels of immunity in the population are not yet sufficient to block spread and the more transmissible B.1.1.7 and B.1.427/429 variants are in Colorado and in El Paso County specifically.
"The state of Colorado has become a patchwork of precautions with no state-wide policies except for a mask mandate ...," she wrote. "El Paso County has dropped most safety precautions for small businesses."
She also noted that hospitalizations for COVID-19 in El Paso County continue to increase but so far have not reached hospital or ICU capacity.
"Every indicator is trending the wrong direction," she says, "whether we look at hospitalizations and cases or the 1/3 decline in vaccines administered. I wonder what conditions, if any, would trigger more safety precautions in Colorado Springs."
El Paso County Public Health data show the number vaccinated for the week of April 11 was 37,185, and two weeks later, for the week of April 25, was only 25,365, a 32-percent plunge.
City and county officials launched a campaign in late April, "Don't Wait. Vaccinate!"
As this explainer about vaccine hesitancy says, to reach herd immunity and overcome the COVID spread, 70 to 90 percent of the population must get vaccinated.
Lostroh said at the pace of El Paso County, the population won't reach 80 percent fully vaccinated until around Thanksgiving Day.