Denver is cracking its whip to boost citywide coronavirus vaccination rates.
Why it matters: Top state and local officials agree that thousands more residents need to get the jab — and now — if Coloradans want to avoid another devastating blow this fall and winter.
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Driving the news: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday announced a new vaccination requirement for the city government's 10,000-plus employees. The city also will invoke its police powers to force private-sector workers in "high-risk" environments to receive the shot, the first major city to do so.
Private sector employees covered under the new mandate include those working in nursing homes, homeless shelters, hospitals, correctional facilities, and schools and post-secondary institutions — both public and private.
After Sept. 30, unvaccinated employees won't be allowed to work onsite or in the field.
What they're saying: "After all of our efforts, we're seeing a spike when we generally would get a little bit of a seasonal break. … Coupled with that concern is the fact that vaccinations have largely stalled," Denver public health director Bob McDonald said at a briefing Monday.
"We need to make sure we're ahead of this so that we don't see another spike in deaths going into the fall," he told reporters.
Context: While there's been a recent increase in vaccine requirements for employees among local governments across the country, Denver's rules appear to go further than most by applying to certain private contractors.
City attorney Kristin Bronson tells Axios that Denver's authority to do so derives from a 1905 U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizing state and local governments' "police power," which includes mandates issued to protect public health.
Violators could be fined up to $5,000 under a new ordinance passed by the City Council Monday night, or face potential jail time.
By the numbers: About 70% of eligible Denver residents are fully vaccinated, but McDonald said more shots are needed to combat the city's increasing infection rate.
City data shows that the average number of daily infections has recently jumped from 15 to nearly 70.
A recent return-to-work survey showed more than 70% of city employees planned to get vaccinated, but actual rates are unknown, a spokesperson for Denver's health department told Axios.
The big picture: Gov. Jared Polis, in a briefing moments after Hancock's, echoed Denver's urgency as hospitalization rates rise, saying the state expects it "to get worse before it gets better."
Polis now says an 80% immunization rate is needed to "prevent Colorado from going down this path that we've seen in other states."
The governor said he has returned to wearing a mask at the grocery store and other public places, but he does not support a mandate to require their broad use.
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