Recommended COVID Precautions
Community Level: Medium
On May 12, Boulder County’s community level shifted to medium, per CDC guidelines, as the number of positive COVID cases per 100,000 people in Boulder County rose above 200. As a result, added prevention measures are recommended to keep people healthy and limit the strain on healthcare systems in Boulder County.
This surge is not happening in the same context as previous surges. Factors including the number of people living in Boulder County who are fully vaccinated and up to date with boosters, availability of highly effective therapies to treat COVID-19, and healthcare providers who are well-versed in treating the virus help to protect against the most severe outcomes of COVID. However, as the cases of COVID-19 increase in the community, so does the risk of contracting the disease.
How to Stay Safe
- Get yourself and your family fully vaccinated and stay up to date by getting boosted when eligible. Vaccines are safe, effective, and free for anyone aged 5+, and they drastically reduce the chance of hospitalization and death.
- Have a plan for testing – If you plan to be near someone at high risk for severe disease, hospitalization, or death, consider getting tested before gathering.
- Increase airflow and ventilation – While indoors, use HEPA filters or increase ventilation and airflow by opening windows or increasing air circulation. Consider moving activities outdoors for the best protection.
- Keep your loved ones and community safe by following BCPH recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Consider wearing a well-fitting, medical-grade mask as an added layer of protection, especially when close to people at high risk for severe disease, hospitalization, and death or in settings that primarily serve individuals who are not up to date or at high risk for severe disease.
- If you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease:
- Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and/or take other precautions.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals.
- Wearing a medical grade mask can be an important line of defense against the virus.
- People may choose to mask at any time and should respect the choices others in the community make to stay safe and comfortable.
- People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should stay home, or, if they must go out, should wear a mask.
- In Boulder County, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)’s public health order 20-38 requires that people in healthcare facilities, homeless shelters, prisons, jails, and community corrections wear a mask in most situations.
- Business and other facilities may still require individuals entering their space to wear a mask, even if they are not covered under a CDPHE order.
- When traveling, be sure to check local requirements to determine if a mask is required in any settings.
As of Feb. 18, 2022, Boulder County Public Health’s two public health orders requiring masks in public indoor spaces and in schools have expired. Please see state or federal law section below.
NOTE: We expect the CDC to update their mask guidance in the coming weeks and Boulder County Public Health will review the updated guidance and update these recommendations accordingly and if needed.
Boulder County Public Health recommends wearing a face covering in the circumstances identified below. Please note that some individuals and businesses may still be subject to state or federal requirements.
In addition, certain businesses, including private businesses, child care settings, or schools, may choose to implement their own requirements based on their circumstances and consideration for their own population risks.
Boulder County Public Health works closely with our schools, child care, and education partners directly and provides advice based on their individual circumstances that may not be reflected in this advisory.
Even if it does not fall within the recommendations here or under any federal, state, or business requirement, individuals may still choose to wear a mask based on their own risk tolerance.
For more information on previous Boulder County Public Health Orders regarding masking, please see the Board of Health Public Health Orders.
Masking & Courtesy
Please remember that individuals may choose to mask for a number of reasons which may not be obvious from their appearance. Please be courteous to others.
BCPH Mask Recommendations
While individuals may choose which type of mask they wear BCPH strongly recommends all individuals wear a snugly-fit N95, KN95, KF94 or equivalent. The best mask is the mask that is snugly fit and made of multi-layer, non-woven materials, regardless of any regulatory designation. These types of masks protect the wearer, as well as others.
For the general public, the material of the mask and the fit is far more important than a specific FDA or other regulatory body designation.
- Multi-Layer, Non-Woven Materials: multiple layers of electrospun or electrostatically charged materials such as disposable non-woven polypropylene fabrics are best. N95, KN95 and KF94 masks meet these criteria.
- Snugly Fit: a snugly fit mask is one that has no gaps around the edges.
- Make sure the nose piece properly comes into contact at all parts of your nose
- This is particularly important for KN95 and KF94 masks, which generally come folded.
- No gaps between the mask and your skin at your cheeks.
- Confirm that the mask goes under your chin and there are no gaps.
- Any gap between your skin and the perimeter of a mask will make the mask less effective.
- For more information about fitting a mask, see the CDC’s Disposable Mask Guidance. You are strongly encouraged to read the precautions in the NIOSH-Approved Respirators section, and the Considerations for Children section if you are helping fit a child with a mask.
- Make sure the nose piece properly comes into contact at all parts of your nose
The following examples provide the best protection starting with the most protective for the wearer.
- Snugly-Fit N95, KN95, KF94, or equivalent:
- Generally, KN95 are suitable for individuals with wider faces, while KF94 are designed for individuals with more narrow faces.
- For the general public, wearing a mask that fits snuggly and is made of multiple layers of non-woven material is more important than any particular brand or model.
- Other Disposable Masks (medical/surgical):
- Surgical/medical masks that are composed of multiple-layers of electrostatically charged fabric with a wire nose piece that are well-fitted over the nose, mouth, and chin are also a good option.
- Cloth Masks:
- While cloth masks made of multiple layers of tightly woven fabric do provide protection, you can create even better protection by wearing a disposable mask with a cloth mask over it.
- The cloth mask should help push the edges of the disposable mask against your face and reduce any gaps or holes.
Free KN95 Masks
Most public libraries offer five free KN95 and surgical grade masks per person, per month at public libraries and certain community sites. Supplies may be limited, you are encouraged to contact your local library or community site to confirm availability.
- For a list of distribution sites, visit Get Free KN95 & Surgical Grade Masks.
Individuals may want to consider the relative risk of their situation to determine what type of mask may be suitable. For example, individuals may want to consider a snugly-fit N95, KN95, KF94 or equivalent for higher-risk situations. For additional information on how to properly wear a mask and how to choose a mask or respirator for different situations, see the CDC’s Guide to Masks.
Follow these simple tips to reuse your KN95
- When putting on or removing your mask only touch the straps and the outermost rim and never handle the front or inside of your mask.
- If you use it once – fold it closed with the side that touches your face on the inside and place it inside a clean breathable material like a paper towel or new paper bag for 4 days. Store it in a place where it can’t get contaminated by the COVID-19 virus, other germs or chemicals.
- Follow this process to reuse your mask up to 5 times.
- To safely discard your mask, place it in a plastic bag and put it in the trash. Wash your hands after handling the used mask.
When to discard your mask
- It is visibly dirty
- It is damaged (e.g. broken straps, broken nose piece)
- It doesn’t fit well anymore (doesn’t seal around the nose and mouth)
What NOT TO DO with your new or used KN95
- Share it with others
- Spray it or wash it with soap and water, alcohol or bleach
- Put it in a microwave
- Store it inside of a dirty cloth, paper bag or napkin
- Lay it on surfaces like the kitchen counter or dinner table that can contaminate it
Boulder County Public Health recommends that all individuals get up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in helping to prevent serious illness and hospitalizations.
Individuals Who are Up to Date on COVID-19 Vaccination
Boulder County Public Health recommends that individuals who are up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations wear a medical grade face covering while in close proximity to individuals at high risk for severe disease, hospitalization, and death or in settings that primarily serve individuals who are not up to date or at high risk for severe disease.
Individuals Who are not Up to Date on COVID-19 Vaccination
- Individuals who are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations should continue to wear a medical grade face covering while around others while Boulder County remains in substantial or high transmission.
- Individuals who are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations should wear a face covering while in close proximity to individuals at high risk for severe disease, hospitalization, and death or in settings that primarily serve individuals who are not up to date or at high risk for severe disease regardless of transmission rates.
Individuals at High Risk for Severe Disease, Hospitalization & Death
CDC has identified adults over the age of 65 and people with certain underlying conditions and risk factors to be at higher risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19. A list of medical conditions is available on the CDC website.
BCPH still encourages a snugly fit medical grade face covering to protect anyone at high risk for more severe disease from COVID-19 infections or who may have frequent close contact with someone who is at higher risk for more severe disease.
Individuals who intend to be in close proximity to individuals at high risk for severe disease, hospitalization, and death should consider obtaining a test prior to gathering.
Recommendations for Businesses & Facilities
Some businesses and facilities may be subject to state or federal requirements. Other businesses and facilities that are not subject to requirements, particularly those that serve high risk individuals, may choose to implement additional mitigation measures as a matter of internal policy, including measures to protect staff who are not up to date or who are at higher risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
Such measures could include requiring face coverings during periods of substantial or high transmission, offering face coverings, moving activities outdoors, increasing ventilation indoors, or implementing vaccination requirements.
State & Federal Mask Requirements
State of Colorado
The State of Colorado requires masks for unvaccinated people 11+ in:
- Jails, prisons, community corrections
- Homeless shelters
- Emergency medical and other healthcare settings (including hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, urgent care centers, clinics, doctors’ offices, and non-urgent care medical structures)
- Other healthcare setting
- Public transportation
Long Term Care Facilities are subject to the State Public Health Order 20-20.
Federal Mask Requirements
CDC has updated its mask requirements and stated it is exercising its discretion to not require people wear masks on buses or vans operated by public or private school systems, including early care and education or childcare programs. CDC is making this change to align with updated guidance and will amend its mask order as soon as possible.
Masks are still required under federal law in the following situations:
- People 2+ on airplanes and in airports
- People 2+ on public conveyances
- Ride shares
- Public buses
Rationale for Mask Recommendation
While vaccines are known to be the most effective way to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and symptomatic disease of COVID-19, masks are an important component of a layered mitigation strategy to prevent disease and get transmission under control in the community.
Multiple studies have indicated that wearing a mask can reduce the wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets, including those that cause the COVID-19 virus, through filtration of fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns. To maximize the efficacy of a mask in keeping the wearer safe, masks must be worn appropriately, covering the nose and mouth. For more information and studies, please see the CDC’s mask information.
Mask recommendations supports Boulder County Public Health’s goals in its COVID-19 response: preventing unnecessary deaths and significant illness, preserving our healthcare system capacity so that everyone can access timely healthcare for any reason whether illness, injury, or other reason, and safely returning to normal activities. By wearing our masks now we can achieve these goals and keep our businesses operating and healthcare system within capacity without further restrictions.
COVID-19 Mitigation Measures
Increase airflow and ventilation –Move gatherings outdoors when possible or practicable, particularly when involving high risk individuals. While indoors, use HEPA filters or increase ventilation and airflow by opening windows or increasing air circulation.
Wash your hands –Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand rub that contains 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
Stay home when sick; stay away from others when they are sick.
Consult Healthcare Provider
Consult with your healthcare provider on a recommended course of action, including any recommended therapies, if you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, come down with any symptoms, or test positive.