Support Northern Colorado Journalism
Show your support for North Forty News by helping us produce more content. It's a kind and simple gesture that will help us continue to bring more content to you.Click to Donate
Larimer County, CO – Due to improving COVID-19 conditions, Larimer County health officials have announced that the Ninth Amended Public Health Order requiring masks in public indoor spaces will expire Saturday, February 12, 2022. This timeline will allow for the Omicron wave to further retreat and gives families, local businesses, and schools time to prepare for the transition.
Overall declining cases and hospitalizations, a high level of community immunity, the recent availability of additional layers of protection (such as free rapid at-home tests and high-quality masks), and increasing treatment options are the reasons health officials will no longer be requiring masks indoors in Larimer County. “What we’ve learned from Alpha, Delta, and Omicron is that each variant is very different,” says Tom Gonzales, Larimer County Public Health Director. “While the use of face masks in crowded indoor settings has been an important mitigation measure over the past two years, I believe it is the right time to end the requirements based on the positive trends we’re seeing with the Omicron variant.”
Once the order expires, Gonzales will continue to strongly recommend that well-fitting, high-quality masks be worn in crowded indoor spaces to help curb outbreaks. Masks will continue to be important in limiting transmission of the virus and protecting those who are immunocompromised.
Cases and Hospitalizations Declining
Case trends following the widespread Omicron surge are now declining. Larimer County’s 7 day case rate has declined by over 38% since the peak on January 14, 2022 and the pace of that decline has accelerated. Overall hospitalization census is stable, and only 20% of those in the ICUs in Larimer County are COVID positive. During the Delta wave, more than 50% of the ICU was often made up of COVID patients. Compared to Delta and other prior variants, Omicron is less severe for all age groups and all vaccination statuses. Vaccinated and boosted individuals continue to experience the greatest reduction in the risk of hospitalization and death.
High Levels of Community Immunity
The most recent modeling report from the Colorado School of Public Health estimates that 42% of all Coloradoans have been infected with Omicron and that 78% of residents have Omicron-specific immunity due to either vaccination or recent infection. While infection from natural immunity may not last as long as that from vaccines, it will likely last at least 3 months, providing a bridge to the warmer months of the year when COVID transmission is less of a risk.
“Masks have served as a bridge to higher rates of vaccination, especially in the face of the challenging Delta and Omicron variants. In addition to vaccine-related immunity, the unprecedented numbers of recent cases have substantially enhanced population immunity,” says Gonzales.
Additional Layers of Protection Available
On top of vaccines, additional layers of protection are increasingly available. The supply and availability of rapid testing has increased with free tests available through both federal and state sources. At-home rapid testing allows individuals to isolate quickly and avoid infecting others. High-quality filtration and well-fitting masks are also available with pickup locations throughout the county and by mail from the federal government. Additionally, the availability of effective treatment options, such as monoclonal antibodies and oral medications, is increasing.
“While the risk remains, we now have many tools to protect against severe disease and death,” says Gonzales.
Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, including boosters, is the best way to protect against severe disease. Other science-based prevention tools like face coverings, frequent handwashing, and staying at home when sick are important to limiting the spread of the virus and reducing the likelihood of future outbreaks and disruptions. The CDC advises those who have tested positive or are experiencing Covid-like symptoms to remain home and away from others for at least 5 days after the start of symptoms. Then, to protect others, to continue to wear a mask while in public for days 6-10 of the isolation period.
The Ninth Amended Public Health Order requiring masks in public indoor spaces will expire at 11:59 pm Friday, February 11, 2022. LCDHE asks residents to be kind and patient in local businesses and schools, some of which might choose to continue to require masks in their facilities.
State or federal entities continue to require masks in the following settings:
- Shelters for people experiencing homelessness;
- Community corrections programs and facilities;
- Emergency medical and other healthcare settings (including hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, urgent care centers, clinics, doctors’ offices, and non-urgent care medical structures); and
- Public transit services
The Larimer County Department of Health & Environment has web pages dedicated to helping residents find information about COVID-19, including vaccination, testing, and accessing COVID-19 treatments at www.larimer.org/covid19. Individuals may also call LCDHE at 970-498-5500 or email CovidConcerns@larimer.org for assistance. Phone assistance is available in English and Spanish.