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Denver to drop vaccine requirement for city workers as Omicron wave crashes

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DENVER — The City and County of Denver is lifting the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for city employees, contractors and private-sector workers in high-risk settings.

The requirement will end Friday, March 4 just before midnight.

“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 (DDPHE), in a news release. “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.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced the requirement in August of 2021. It applied to over 10,000 employees including teachers, police officers and people working in nursing homes and correctional facilities.

“The only way out of this [pandemic] is with mandatory vaccinations,” McDonald said at the time.

There were not many hold-outs after Hancock announced the requirement. By October, close to 99% of city workers had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Federal and state vaccine mandates are still in effect for workers at places like medical facilities.

The city's decision to lift the vaccine requirement comes at a time when new COVID-19 infections are steadily decreasing. Denver officials attributed the drop in cases to the “high level of community protection as a result of the high percentage of people who are vaccinated and recently boosted, and people who were recently infected during the Omicron surge.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) estimated that about 90% of Coloradans are immune to the Omicron variant, either through vaccination, prior infection or both. According to the Denver’s COVID-19 dashboard, close to 87% of residents have at least one dose of the vaccine. About 40% of residents have been boosted.

When officials made the announcement about Denver's vaccine requirement being lifted, the city's one-week COVID-19 positivity rate had dropped below 5%. "Modeling suggests lifting the vaccine mandate will not have a negative impact on this trend," the release read.

In the news release, city officials wrote: “Data from the Omicron surge in Denver shows the reduced risk of hospitalization and death in those who are fully vaccinated versus fully vaccinated with a booster shot: Those who are boosted are 86% less likely to die and 51% less likely to be hospitalized compared to those who are vaccinated and not boosted.”

Nationwide, vaccinations have dropped precipitously as the wave in cases driven by the highly-contagious Omicron variant subsides. According to a report from The Associated Press, “the average number of Americans getting their first shot is down to about 90,000 a day, the lowest point since the first few days of the U.S. vaccination campaign.”

However, a new strain of the Omicron variant — one that has been confirmed in Colorado — has some medical professionals worried. But the best way to protect yourself, according to experts? Get vaccinated.

Kyle Cooke is the digital media manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at

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