Will Avs Fans Follow Advice to Mask Up During Stanley Cup Finals? Fat Chance

Most attendees at recent Colorado Avalanche games have eschewed masks.
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Most attendees at recent Colorado Avalanche games have eschewed masks.
On June 15, Denver's Ball Arena will play host to game one of the Stanley Cup Finals, which pit the Colorado Avalanche against the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is the highest-profile sporting event to take place in the Mile High City since last summer's Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and according to the standards set by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the goalies shouldn't be the only ones wearing masks. Health officials strongly recommend that everyone in the facility don face coverings, too, owing to high levels of the disease throughout the metro area right now.

But judging from fan mask usage during the NHL playoffs, that's ultra-unlikely to happen — as officials at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment acknowledge. Asked about masking at the Avs' home contests, Brian Spencer, spokesperson for the Colorado State Joint Information Center, which is handling COVID communications for the CDPHE, notes that "the CDC recommends that everyone wear a well-fitted mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status." But then he adds this: "We understand that different people may have different risk factors and levels of comfort around using tools like mask-wearing."

According to the CDC's website, health officials at the agency consider a community to be at a high level for the virus if it registers a seven-day average of 200 or more cases per 100,000 people, if hospitalizations for the disease hit ten or more per 100,000 people during the same period, and if 10 percent or more of staffed, in-person hospital beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients over that span. The department's community-level calculator confirms that Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson, Broomfield and Boulder counties all meet this mark as of today, June 14.

The state health department's COVID-19 dial dashboard offers a more detailed view of how bad the numbers in metro Denver have gotten lately. As of June 14, two counties are at level orange, with a one-week-average cumulative incidence rate of more than 300 cases per 100,000 people: Denver at 330.5 and Boulder at 338.8. The other five are at level yellow, with a one-week-average cumulative incidence rate in excess of 200 cases per 100,000 people: Broomfield at 243.1, Adams at 255, Jefferson at 257.4, Douglas at 272.8 and Arapahoe at 294.

The figures are even worse when measured by the two-week cumulative incidence rate that the CDPHE previously used as its main safety metric, and continues to measure. By this standard, all seven of the counties are at level red, or more than 300 cases per 100,000 people over two weeks: Adams at 470.9, Jefferson at 507.9, Broomfield at 521, Douglas at 538.6, Arapahoe at 567, Denver at 642.9 and Boulder at 673.7. But so far, none of these counties has reinstituted mandatory masking for public indoor places.

Ball Arena, meanwhile, lifted "all current event COVID-19 entry protocols, which include providing proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the specific event and wearing a face mask at all times except when actively eating and drinking" on March 12. The arena's website notes a possible exception for "event-specific health-and-safety requirements" when promoters, touring artists or leagues might ask for stricter rules to be put in place. But its list of such events currently reads "none at this time."

"Mask-wearing is an effective tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19," Spencer notes but adds, "Coloradans should assess their individual risk factors and the COVID community level where they live and spend time in public and make decisions accordingly."

The CDPHE "encourages all Coloradans to keep masks with them in public and wear them when asked," he continues. "We encourage all Coloradans to be respectful of others’ choices about how they protect themselves and others."

Including the thousands who will pack Ball Arena tomorrow night.