Strange Craft Beer Company head brewer Tim Myers (wearing the leather cowboy hat) chats over a beer at the brewery in Denver on Jan. 16, 2020. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Coloradans will be allowed to go mask-free in almost all settings, Gov. Jared Polis announced on Friday, marking one of the most significant returns to pre-pandemic life. 

“We are going from mask-wearing requirements to mask-wearing suggestions and guidance,” Polis said at a news conference. “We have now reached a threshold where not enough people are vaccinated to end the pandemic, but enough people are vaccinated where especially those who are vaccinated no longer need to wear masks.”

Mask-wearing is still encouraged for unvaccinated people and will continue to be required through at least June 1 for unvaccinated people in assisted-living facilities, emergency medical settings, childcare facilities, and jails and prisons. After that date, events with over 500 people will no longer need state approval to take place.

Face-covering rules will also change for schools with unvaccinated teachers. Districts will have the option to allow adolescent students who have been vaccinated to remove masks on campus. Unvaccinated students will be required to wear masks for the remainder of the academic year.

Businesses, workplaces and local governments can continue to require patrons, workers and citizens to wear masks or require people to provide proof of full vaccination. Some may use an “honor system” to determine whether people have been vaccinated and they need to wear a face covering or not.

“There is no comprehensive way to have a state vaccination passport,” Polis said. “It violates people’s privacy. There’s no practical way to implement it.”

Polis said about 57% percent of Colorado’s population has gotten at least one coronavirus shot. He believes about 75% to 80% of Coloradans want it based on polling he’s seen.

The changes to Colorado’s mask rules follow new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that, with some exceptions, fully vaccinated people no longer need to socially distance or wear masks indoors. The CDC says mask-wearing is still encouraged or required in a number of settings, including mass transit.

“The pandemic is not yet over,” Polis said. “But if you are vaccinated, it is largely over for you. It’s an exciting day.”

Also on Friday, Denver-area counties announced they would be dropping all of their pandemic capacity restrictions starting on Sunday. Health officials are calling the new phase “level clear.”

Coors Field, home of the Rockies, will be allowed to operated at 70% of its capacity, or 35,000 fans, starting next week, the team announced on Twitter Friday. Coors Field had been operating at 43% capacity as part of a variance issued from health officials, which included a requirement that fans wear masks while indoors.

“The announcement is a great way to kick off the summer and welcome even more fans back to LoDo and Coors Field,” Rockies President Greg Feasel said in a written statement.

Eagle County also announced on Friday that it is dropping all of its coronavirus-related public health restrictions for the first time since March 12, 2020. The latest restrictions were set to be in place through May 27, but the county ended them a week early because of a steady decline in cases as vaccination rates have increased. 

“We felt confident that if we could achieve a community vaccination rate of 60% that we would see a rapid decrease in our disease rates,” Heath Harmon, director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment, said in a written statement. “Our current data confirms this with our lowest disease incidence since October of 2020. As a result we will rescind public health orders earlier than originally planned.”

The Colorado Sun —

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Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage.

A Colorado College graduate, Jesse worked at The Denver Post from June 2014 until July 2018, when he joined The Sun. He was also an intern at The Gazette in Colorado Springs and The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, his hometown.

Jesse has won awards for long form feature writing, public service reporting, sustained coverage and deadline news reporting.

Email: Twitter: @jesseapaul