With many Denver metro counties moving to “level clear” and Colorado ending its statewide mask mandate, the era of coronavirus restrictions seems to be coming to a close. Nevertheless, local …
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With many Denver metro counties moving to “level clear” and Colorado ending its statewide mask mandate, the era of coronavirus restrictions seems to be coming to a close. Nevertheless, local public health officials urged caution when asked how to properly practice trail etiquette in a summer that will still feature the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Outdoor mask mandates have seen rollbacks for months, with Jefferson County Public Health and Tri-County Public Health — which covers Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties — lifting their outdoor mask mandates on April 5 and Boulder County following suit on April 9. A statewide executive order was amended on May 14 to allow fully vaccinated people to go outdoors without wearing masks.
Nevertheless, many public health officials are urging caution when visiting trails and open spaces in the coming weeks. The pandemic is far from over in Colorado, which on May 18 reported a case rate of 20 per 100,000 people — the highest in the U.S. at the time of the report.
Jefferson County Public Health Public Affairs Manager Ashley Sever said that despite the move to “level clear,” JCPH was still recommending that people wear masks if they’re in large crowds or uncertain of the vaccination status of those around them.
“We’ve moved to level clear,” said Sever. “We still recommend when anybody is around people who don’t have a good vaccination status, if they don’t know, or if they know they’re unvaccinated or in larger crowds, things like that, we certainly want people to continue to take prevention measures.”
Dr. Bernadette Albanese, an epidemiologist with Tri-County Health Department, added that while getting a vaccine is likely the best thing to do to avoid getting sick, there are increased risk factors when in heavily trafficked public spaces that would compel mask wearing.
“Getting a vaccine is probably the number one thing you can do to keep healthy,” said Albanese. “When you’re outdoors with a lot of people you don’t know — you don’t know their infection status — and you want to put yourself in the best position to remain healthy, how about a mask?
“I don’t think it’s hard to do,” Albanese continued. “And it’ll protect you. And also protect others.”
Sever added that some examples of high-risk situations could include being outdoors with people who are being boisterous or have recently vacationed.
“When you’re in a higher-risk scenario,” said Sever, “like with someone who recently vacationed, or if people are yelling or screaming or singing and you’re in closer proximity with those people, that’s another reason to wear a mask outdoors. It’s in those higher-risk scenarios where wearing a mask outdoors is still probably a good idea.”
Enessa Janes, Arvada’s deputy director of the Department of Vibrant Communities and Neighborhoods, said that she recommended people continue wearing masks and practice social distancing in parks and on trails, despite the change to “level clear”. Janes added that in situations where it is impossible to socially distance, using one’s best judgment should suffice.
“For our part we’re really encouraging people to continue to use (masks),” said Janes, “and to follow CDC guidelines and not visit the parks if they’re feeling sick.
“There will probably be situations where you can’t always keep six feet social distancing with passing,” Janes continued. “In those cases, step off the trail if you need to, but please don’t step off so far that you disturb the natural environment or disrupt the habitat. Just be as respectful to other walkers and hikers as possible.”
Janes added that she anticipated continued high usage of open spaces, and thanked the maintenance teams that have been working to keep public parks clean throughout the pandemic.
“Our trails and parks have gotten so much use over the course of the pandemic,” said Janes,” and can continue to get that use because of how hard our teams have been working to keep the parks looking clean and ready for increased use. We’re really anticipating the same level of use this summer — if not more.”
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