Residents, workers and visitors to Colorado’s roughly 750 assisted living communities, intermediate care facilities and group homes no longer have to wear masks — as long as they are fully vaccinated.

May 31, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released an updated public health order and guidance for residential care facilities serving older adults and people with disabilities. Masks still are required in nursing homes due to stricter federal guidelines. 

Doug Farmer, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association / Center for Assisted Living, told McKnight’s Senior Living that he is “generally glad” to see the state dropping mask requirements for fully vaccinated individuals.

“In addition to helping return these care centers to ‘normal,’ we’re also hopeful that it will encourage more employees to become vaccinated,” Farmer said. “Given the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]’s guidance — and subsequent explanation of the science — on fully vaccinated individuals, and the way outbreak investigations are planned in Colorado, we are generally comfortable that this is a good policy decision on the state’s part.”

About 90% of long-term care residents in the state are vaccinated, although about 35% of long-term care workers have opted out of vaccination, according to KUNC

Long-term care facilities in the state also now are required to submit ongoing vaccination plans outlining role responsibilities, vaccine provider information and educational opportunities. And as of June 14, facilities will be required to create COVID-19 mitigation plans to promote “vaccine confidence and acceptance” by documenting how they will continue to offer vaccination to new residents and workers.

The public health order follows updated guidance from the CDC in allowing fully vaccinated people to go without a mask in most places. In addition, vaccinated staff members and residents no longer must undergo weekly testing or monitoring. 

“We want our residents and staff members at residential care facilities in Colorado to know there are clear benefits to vaccination,” CDPHE Director of Health Facilities and EMS Division Randy Kuykendall said. “These at-risk communities have been on the frontline of mitigating COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, and while we aren’t quite out of it yet, making sensible, data-based decisions in regards to infection prevention and socialization will continue to help us finish strong and power the comeback.”