The lightning-fast spread of the Omicron version of COVID-19 prompted Denver City Council on Tuesday to call off all in-person meetings until further notice.
According to a news release, all members of the public are being advised to attend meetings or speak during open comment periods and public hearings. There, city staff have provided links that can be used to view committee and regular council meetings, as well as sign-up links for those wishing to speak during those meetings.
The announcement comes after a hybrid in-person and online council meeting on Monday night, during which Counselor Amanda Sawyer appeared via a Zoom video call as she said she was ill with COVID-19.
“We have to follow the numbers and do what is responsible,” Council President Stacey Gilmore said on Tuesday. “We have a great team and we’ve moved on quickly.”
He said Gilmore presided over all the online meetings for almost a year after being elected chairman of the council in 2020. This gave him a lot of practice and confidence that the city’s Zoom conference call system could handle the load of property redistribution and other public hearings.
The council’s announcement cited protecting the hospital’s capacity as a driver to go back to an all-online format.
On Tuesday, Mayor Michael Hancock said one in every 100 Denver residents has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past seven days. This included Hancock himself. Mayer posted on social media on New Year’s Day that he was in quarantine with mild symptoms. A spokesman said the mayor is still working remotely and following the latest quarantine guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As chairman of the council, Gilmore has the final say on when the council will open its chambers for hybrid meetings.
“We are monitoring the health data and will return as soon as we have information that we are not unintentionally putting the public or our employees and city employees at greater risk,” Gilmore said. “Virtual (meeting) is a tool we can use but I would prefer to be in chambers if possible.”