Dear Roadrunners,

Last week, I wrote to you with cautious optimism about the future of the Covid-19 pandemic. This week, I can report that public-health officials with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have made some significant announcements based on improving health data. 

DDPHE announces expiration of Public Health Order 

Denver’s Public Health Order requiring Covid-19 vaccinations for all City and County of Denver employees and contractors, as well as private-sector workers in high-risk settings, will be lifted March 4 at 11:59 p.m. The mandate was put in place this past fall to increase vaccination rates to protect our community as well as the health of our hospital system during the Delta and Omicron surges. 

According to the DDPHE, the one-week positivity rate of Covid-19 cases in Denver has dropped below 5%, and modeling suggests that lifting the vaccine mandate will not have a negative impact on this trend. There is a high level of community protection as a result of the high percentage of people who are vaccinated and recently boosted as well as people who were recently infected during the Omicron surge. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment estimates 90% of Coloradans are immune to the Omicron variant and that most are protected against severe disease.  

Further, the incidence of severe disease from Covid-19 is low in people who are vaccinated and boosted, and in children younger than 5, and hospital capacity has stabilized. DDPHE data shows those who are boosted are 86% less likely to die and 51% less likely to be hospitalized compared with those who are vaccinated and not boosted. These improved community outcomes, in addition to vaccinations and boosters being free and widely available to the public, now make it possible to transition to a longer-term approach that treats Covid-19 as an endemic disease and reserves Public Health Orders for urgent situations, according to the DDPHE. 

That said, MSU Denver has been busy gathering student and employee vaccine and booster data related to our institutional vaccine requirement, which remains in effect. We anticipate having a good handle on our Covid-19 immunization data by Tuesday and have directly contacted all members of the University community who are not in compliance.  

Masking mandate  

As our local public-health officials gain confidence in our emergence from the pandemic, this naturally raises more questions about the Auraria Campus’ mask mandate, which was instituted as a mitigation requirement in response to the Public Health Order. Thanks to your feedback and the input of our campus public-health experts, I am confident we will have an update by early next week. In the meantime, masks are still required indoors on the Auraria Campus. 

Covid-19 Dashboard  

As we continue to learn and evolve during this pandemic, we’ve made the decision to discontinue the campus Covid-19 Dashboard. Cases and positivity rates cannot be reliably reported due to the large number of tests performed off-campus or at home. We’re planning to redirect the resources dedicated to updating our dashboard and instead reference the City and County of Denver’s Covid-19 Dashboard.  

Additional news

As always, thank you all for acting responsibly and with compassion for others to keep our campus community safe.  

Sincerely,  

Larry Sampler, vice president for Administration