San Juan Basin Public Health to issue public health advisories to limit spread of COVID-19, state mask order expected for schools and high-risk settings

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    With vaccination rates increasing, local requirements moving to strong advisories

    San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) will issue a local public health advisory today, and the current local public health order will be allowed to expire. The public health advisory includes strong recommendations that residents should follow to protect themselves and limit the spread of COVID-19, including face coverings in indoor public spaces and maintaining six feet of physical distance between nonhousehold individuals.

    The Governor of Colorado announced that a state mask order will go into effect for schools, large events over 500 people, and other high-risk settings. The State of Colorado is expected to exempt vaccinated individuals from indoor mask requirements in alignment with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, a federal requirement for mask wearing still applies to all individuals across transportation networks throughout the country, including on trains and buses, at airports, and onboard commercial aircraft. The order runs through at least Sept. 13. Residents should be aware that although some COVID protocols are easing, masks may still be required in businesses complying with public health advisories and in other situations.

    With local public health orders moving to advisories, SJBPH strongly urges residents who have not yet been vaccinated to do so immediately. The CDC’s recent easing of mask protocols for fully vaccinated individuals provides additional motivation for individuals to protect themselves and their families and get vaccinated.

    Local mask orders have recently helped protect unvaccinated individuals who are at high risk of getting COVID. The virus continues to spread, primarily within the unvaccinated population. The shift of most public health orders to advisories and the continued spread of the virus presents a clear choice to unvaccinated residents: Receive protection through vaccination or put yourself and your family at high risk for catching the severe variants of COVID-19 circulating in our community. According to data collected by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and SJBPH, an unvaccinated resident was 20.7 times more likely to get COVID-19 than a vaccinated person in Archuleta County and 11.5 times more likely in La Plata County. Data was collected for the week of April 25 through May 1.

    “Unfortunately, the virus is still spreading at high rates across Colorado and in our community. With the CDC and statewide guidelines changing, it is more important than ever to get vaccinated right away to protect yourself and your family. Additionally, until the level of infection in our community drops, we urge you to follow public health advisories including wearing a mask in public indoor settings and maintaining six feet of distancing between households,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH Executive Director. “Aside from vaccination, masks are by far our most effective and least costly way to limit indoor spread of the disease. Please get vaccinated as soon as possible— the vaccine is widely available. We have lots of convenient times and locations listed on our website. Increasing our local vaccination rate is our best path forward to protect our community and lift these protective advisories,” Jollon added.

    As of May 14, Colorado is tied with Michigan for the highest COVID-19 case incidence rate in the country. Variants of concern which have been shown to spread more easily or cause more severe cases of COVID-19 are also present in the community.

    Until our local vaccination rate increases and our case rate decreases, local businesses, workplaces and organized events who plan to continue to follow federal, state and local health advisories will have an opportunity to display a certificate indicating they are following COVID-safe practices through this transition, such as masking and six-foot distancing. This opportunity will provide customers with the highest degree of confidence in a business’ infection prevention measures.

    SJBPH continues to urge everyone to follow these important public health precautions:

    • Getting the COVID-19 vaccine (all residents age 12 and up are now eligible for vaccine)
    • Getting tested if you are symptomatic, think you’ve been exposed, or if you work in a high-contact job
    • Wearing face coverings, especially in public indoor settings
    • Social distancing of at least 6 feet
    • Avoiding nonessential travel, especially until you are fully vaccinated
    • Washing hands well

    For COVID-19 data, testing locations, and information about vaccines visit: https://sjbpublichealth.org/coronavirus/