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The Metro Mask Order That Could Last as Long as the Pandemic

Yes, masks will be required even on Halloween in Adams and Arapahoe counties.
Yes, masks will be required even on Halloween in Adams and Arapahoe counties.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Colorado, the Tri-County Health Department is extending its current mask order, which was set to expire at midnight on October 22, "for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, or until amended or rescinded."

Still, this move isn't as simple as it seems. While the edict will apply to Arapahoe and Adams counties, two of the three jurisdictions over which TCHD currently holds sway, the third, Douglas County, won't have to comply, since this summer it declared its intention to opt out of its relationship with the department over (you guessed it) a previous mask-use requirement.

There's another important difference: Governor Jared Polis name-checked both Adams and Arapahoe counties as parts of the state helping to fuel the current rise in positive cases and hospitalizations tied to the novel coronavirus during an October 20 press conference; he noted that he'd spoken with commissioners from both counties earlier in the day about their efforts to squelch the spread.

The situation is particularly acute in Arapahoe County, which presently boasts Safer at Home Level 1 status on the dial framework established by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which allows for greater capacity at restaurants and looser restrictions in general. On October 16, however, Tri-County Health revealed that the county could slip below this standard if metrics continue to head in the wrong direction; the incidence rate had hit 192.6 per 100,000 residents, a figure consistent with Safer at Home Level 3, and the positivity rate bumped up to a lofty 5.1 percent.

For that reason, TCHD instituted a series of new restrictions that went into effect on October 16 and will continue until midnight on November 1 unless they're extended. Among them:

• All Alcohol sales within the county will end at 11 p.m. instead of midnight
• Personal gatherings (such as groupings of families, friends and neighbors) are restricted to 10 people or fewer, instead of the 25-person limit.
• Non-essential, office-based businesses are encouraged to increase telecommuting within office-based environments.

On October 20, Tri-County Health took more sweeping action, extending the order on the wearing of face masks "in indoor public spaces and in outdoor spaces whenever six-foot distancing is not maintained." While the order covers Adams and Arapahoe county, the department's release acknowledges that Douglas County won't have to obey, albeit without mentioning the county by name.

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That passive-aggressive section reads: "If a municipality or county opted-out in July, they remain opted-out in the extended order and will follow Governor Polis’ statewide mask order. Any municipality or county that opted-out of TCHD’s order can always opt back in as a means to help contain the spread of the virus."

Don't hold your breath waiting for the latter to happen — whether you're wearing a mask or not.

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