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Denver imposes vax-or-mask mandate as COVID cases climb elsewhere

Starting Nov. 24, restaurants have a choice of either requiring vaccines or facemasks.
Photograph: Shutterstock

In one of the first restrictions imposed on restaurants since COVID cases began soaring again, operators in Denver will be required either to limit entry to guests and employees who can prove they’ve been vaccinated, or mandate that everyone wear a facemask.

The measure, announced mid-Tuesday by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, takes effect Wednesday, Nov. 24. It will be in effect for at least 45 days.

The mayor said the step was necessary because of a recent spike in COVID infections within Colorado. Although 70% of the city’s residents have been fully vaccinated, Hancock explained, the rate for other areas of the state is far lower. With the holidays approaching, many non-vaccinated Coloradans from other regions will be descending on Denver to shop, visit and seek entertainment.

“We’re not here today because what we’ve done in Denver and the region haven’t worked—quite the contrary,” Hancock said in announcing the new protocols. “If other communities in Colorado and around the country took the affirmative steps we have taken around vaccines, the pandemic would be under control.”

“This order ensures we get through the next 45 days without a break in our hospital capacity,” he added in a subsequent tweet.

The mayor noted that many public businesses in his jurisdiction have already set proof of being vaccinated as a condition of entry.

The new safety measures come as other locales are easing up on restaurant restrictions. The District of Columbia, for instance, lifted its mask requirements for dine-in restaurant guests on Monday.

But health officials have warned that some of the protective measures imposed by municipalities, counties and states during past COVID spikes, including the surge triggered this summer by the Delta variant, may be resurrected.

The number of new COVID cases reported yesterday topped 93,870, a 27% jump from two weeks earlier. Experts have yet to cite a cause for the surge, but note that the newly afflicted have largely been unvaccinated individuals.

Officials expect the trend to continue, if not accelerate, as temperatures drop and Americans spend more time indoors. The close confines increase the chances of coronavirus spreading from one person to another.

They also note that new cases will likely jump in number because of get-togethers during the holidays.

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