Coronavirus: Denver requiring vaccinations for municipal employees, workers in ‘high-risk settings’

DENVER — Mayor Michael B. Hancock announced Monday that Denver will require city employees and private sector workers in high-risk occupations and settings to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by late next month.

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The public health order will apply to first responders, schoolteachers and other school personnel, employees working at correctional facilities and more. It will also apply to all of Denver’s 10,000 city employees.

“After considerable deliberation and consultation with public health experts, including my chief public health officer, Executive Director Bob McDonald, I am approving a far-reaching public health order mandating that all city employees, as well as private sector workers in high-risk settings, be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 30,” Hancock said Monday at a news conference.

The mayor said that in the past six months, 96% of people who have been hospitalized across Colorado with COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated. He added that 90% of new cases are being caused by the delta variant, a highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 that has driven a rise in infections across the U.S.

>> Related: How do you know if you have the delta variant; what are the symptoms?

“While masking and social distancing are important tools to protect those who have not been vaccinated, and may even be useful for particularly vulnerable people who have been vaccinated, the truth of the matter is that these measures are no substitutes for what we need to shut the virus down for good: more people vaccinated,” Hancock said.

As of Saturday, the last date for which data was available, about 53% of Colorado residents have been vaccinated, according to the state health department. Nationwide, about 50% of all Americans have been fully vaccinated, data from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said last month that the delta variant was accounting for 83% of all new COVID-19 cases being reported across the country. In a leaked CDC report that Walensky later confirmed, officials said the variant was as transmissible as chicken pox. Research has also shown that fully vaccinated people can spread the variant; however, officials have noted that vaccination protects well against severe and life-threatening symptoms of the viral infection.

>> Related: Leaked CDC report: Delta variant as contagious as chickenpox

Other municipalities, states and the federal government have announced similar vaccine mandates in an effort to encourage skeptics to get their shots. In California and New York, state employees will be required to get vaccinated or face regular COVID-19 testing. The vaccine is also being required for all health care workers in New York with no testing exemption.

Since the start of the pandemic, 35 million Americans have been diagnosed with COIVD-19, resulting in more than 613,000 deaths, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Over 198.6 million people worldwide have gotten COVID-19, causing 4.2 million deaths, according to the university.

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