Denver to lift vaccine mandate for city workers, teachers and others in high-risk settings on March 5

DDPHE may issue new public health orders if data changes, health officials say
colorado covid vaccine
Posted at 11:21 AM, Feb 23, 2022

DENVER – City of Denver employees, teachers, contractors and workers in high-risk settings will no longer be required to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus starting March 5, according to the latest guidance from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE).

“During the pandemic we have made data-informed decisions to protect residents and Denver is now at a place where it makes sense to lift the vaccine mandate,” said Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment and Denver’s Public Health Administrator. “I want to thank everyone who complied with this mandate. By taking the step to be vaccinated and staying up to date on boosters, you have kept our hospital system from collapsing and have saved lives.”

The vaccine mandate, which was announced for all city and county of Denver employees, first responders, workers at long-term care centers, shelters, correctional facilities, as well as childcare providers, teachers and some private workers on Aug. 2, has been in place since Sept. 30 of last year. It was put in place to increase the vaccination rate across the city and county and to protect the region’s hospital system from collapsing during the delta and omicron waves, city officials said.

By the beginning of October, nearly 99% of the city’s workforce had been fully vaccinated or exempt, according to city data at the time.

The latest data from the DDPHE shows the one-week positivity rate – the metric which measures how much of the virus is currently spreading throughout the community – has dropped below 5% in Denver and modeling suggests lifting the vaccine mandate will not have a negative effect on this trend, a news release from the department states.

Across Colorado, state health officials estimate 90% of residents are immune to omicron and most are protected against severe disease.

Additionally, DDPHE officials said Wednesday the incident of severe disease from COVID-19 in people who are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines is low and hospital capacity has stabilized. Those who are up to date on their vaccines are 86% less likely to die and 51% less likely to be hospitalized compared to those who are fully vaccinated, according to the DDPHE.

“These improved community outcomes, in addition to vaccinations and boosters being free and widely available to the public, now make it possible to transition to a longer-term approach that treats COVID-19 as an endemic disease and reserves public health orders for urgent situations,” the news release states.

Even though immunity due to vaccination or recent infection is high, DDPHE officials continue to urge Denverites to be mindful and take precautions, noting the department may implement new public health orders in the future if data shows it will protect community health.

Denver's vaccine mandate led to seven Denver police officers filing a lawsuit against the mayor, police chief and health department, however, a judge ultimately dismissed the suit.

In a statement to Denver7, a DDPHE spokesperson said employees who were fired by the city for not complying with the mandate would not get their jobs back.

The Career Service Rules state that employees terminated for violating the Career Service Rules are not eligible for rehire for five years and the rules were clearly stated in all prior communications regarding the vaccine mandate. As such, city employees who were terminated for violations of the vaccine mandate are not eligible for rehire for five years. Other discipline, suspensions or temporary reductions in pay, issued to city employees for violations of the vaccine mandate will stand. All discipline was issued in accordance with the Career Service Rules for violations of the mandate and with notice to employees. The change in the mandate now does not change prior violations.

Federal and state vaccination mandates remain in effect for workers and people in certain settings, including medical facilities. A federal mask mandate also remains in effect for the nation’s airports, during flights, in school buses, public transportation and other settings.