By Ryan Howe, CDPHE
I was in the gas station yesterday, buying a Kit-Kat and Arizona Green Tea, and right before I got to the counter to pay, a man walked through the door without a mask on. He walked past most of the people in line to get to the soda machine, and no one said anything. No one rolled their eyes at him. No one looked worried. It was the first time since last March I had seen a stranger's mouth and felt safe or normal.
After the gas station, I noticed it more and more. People outside the Denver Botanic Gardens were standing close to one another and laughing without their masks. More people were walking along Colfax and in the parks without masks. Things are making their way back to normal.
But we aren’t fully in the clear yet. Until more people get vaccinated for COVID-19, everyone should stay in the habit of bringing a mask with them whenever they go out in public. Not only is it the considerate thing to do, but in some cases, it might be required.
If you are not fully vaccinated, you should wear a mask when you're in a public indoor space. This will help protect you and other people from exposure to COVID-19 and keep you and your community healthy.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine.
If you’re going out to a public place like a restaurant, bar, store, church, gym, or bowling alley, you may be asked to put on a mask. The owner of the business or venue you are visiting can decide if masks are required.
Where masks are required by law
All people age two and older must continue to wear a mask when taking public transportation, no matter your vaccination status. That includes busses, the light rail, airplanes, taxis, and ride-shares like Uber and Lyft. Also, masks are required at airports, train stations, and bus stops. This is federal law.
If you are 12 years of age or older and are not fully vaccinated, you are required to wear a mask at health care facilities, prisons, and jails. If you work at the DMV, you also are required to wear a mask if you are not fully vaccinated.
Masks are still required for unvaccinated people 12 years of age or older in indoor school and child care settings, including summer camps. This also applies to indoor extracurricular activities. Fully vaccinated people, including children age 12 and older, can now take off their masks in schools and at camp. And masks aren’t required for anyone during outdoor activities.
Protect your neighbors
Many Coloradans have waited a long time to remove their masks and return to normal. But a lot of people are still concerned about COVID-19, and the pandemic is not over yet. If you are in a public space and someone asks you to mask up, please do so. They may have good reason for the request. And if you would feel safer if the people around you wore masks, feel free to speak up.
I’ve received both doses of the Moderna vaccine and have been fully vaccinated for almost two months, but I still want to wear my mask in public spaces. I’m probably not the only one with these feelings. It’s normal.
In time, once more people are vaccinated, I’ll feel more comfortable removing my mask. I don’t know whether the person next to me is vaccinated or not. They may be working three jobs to provide for their family and a vaccine appointment just hasn’t fit in their schedule. They could be scared of needles, or maybe they have experienced trauma during health care visits in the past. It is not my place to pass judgement or a potentially deadly virus to them, regardless of the reason.
Get vaccinated as soon as you can
Luckily, it’s easier than ever for Coloradans age 12 and older to get a safe, effective, and lifesaving vaccine. You don’t need ID or insurance to get vaccinated. The vaccines are free.
There are many fast and easy ways to get vaccinated, including:
- At one of the state’s community vaccination sites. Most of these locations are drive-throughs. Many take walk-ins, but you can also make an appointment ahead of time to speed up your visit.
- At a pharmacy near you. Walmart, Sam’s Club, King Soopers, City Market, Safeway, Cardinal, and Costco all have COVID-19 vaccines. Many locations take walk-ins.
- At a mobile vaccination clinic. The vaccine buses take multiple routes throughout Colorado. No appointments are needed, but we recommend making an appointment for children age 12 to 17, since they can only get the Pfizer vaccine.
- With a free ride to a vaccine appointment. Mile High United Way’s Ride United program is providing access to free rides (up to 25 miles each way) to vaccination sites across Colorado. Dial 2-1-1 or visit 211colorado.org to learn more.
- At a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic near you.
If you need help making a vaccine appointment, or if you have questions about the vaccine, call 1-877-CO VAX CO (1-877-268-2926). This free hotline is available 24/7 in multiple languages.