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Colorado students won’t have to wear masks in schools under new COVID-19 rules

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Colorado students won’t need to wear masks when they head back to school, but unvaccinated staff and visitors to jails, homeless shelters and hospitals still are required to wear face coverings.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced the changes to public health rules meant to control COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon. The new rules will remain in effect until Aug. 1.

Previously, staff and children 11 and older who weren’t vaccinated were required to wear masks in schools. Going forward, the only public settings where people who aren’t fully vaccinated will need to mask up are: homeless shelters, prisons, jails and health care facilities.

The order also “strongly encouraged” those facilities to test unvaccinated staff with either a rapid test every day, or a weekly test looking for the virus’s genetic material. It doesn’t lay out any consequences for facilities that don’t, though.

The World Health Organization and some health departments have urged vaccinated people to resume mask-wearing in public, because of concerns about the more-contagious delta variant of the virus. Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recommend that most people who are two weeks out from their shot wear masks.

Earlier this week, the state ended “crisis standards of care” for managing personal protective equipment. Crisis standards allow hospitals and other providers to use less-than-ideal practices during an emergency, such as reusing masks that were meant to be disposable.

As of Thursday afternoon, about 63% of Colorado adults were fully vaccinated, and the state was approaching President Joe Biden’s goal of getting at least one dose to 70% of people over 18 by July 4, according to data from the CDC.

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