Omicron’s surge pushes Denver City Council back to all-online meetings

The lightning-fast spread of COVID-19’s omicron variant pushed the Denver City Council on Tuesday to shut down all in-person meetings until further notice.

All members of the public seeking to tune into meetings or speak during open comment periods and public hearings are being advised to visit, according to a news release. There, city staff members have provided links that can be used to view committee and regular council meetings as well as sign-up links for people seeking to speak during those meetings.

The announcement comes after a hybrid in-person and online council meeting on Monday night during which Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer appeared via Zoom video call because she said she was home sick with COVID-19.

“We’ve got to follow the numbers and do what’s responsible,” Council President Stacie Gilmore said Tuesday. “We’ve got a great team and we quickly pivoted.”

Gilmore presided over all-online meetings for roughly a year after being elected council president in 2020, she said. That gave her plenty of practice and confidence that the city’s Zoom conference call system can handle the load of property rezonings and other public hearings.

The council announcement cited protecting hospital capacity as a driver for going back to an all-online format.

On Tuesday, Mayor Michael Hancock said roughly one out of every 100 Denver residents has tested positive for COVID-19 over the last seven days. That included Hancock himself. The mayor posted on social media on New Year’s Day that he was quarantining with mild symptoms. The mayor is still working remotely and following the latest quarantine guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a spokesman said.

As council president, Gilmore has the final say over when the council will open its chambers back up for hybrid meetings.

“We are monitoring the health data and as soon we receive the information that we aren’t inadvertently putting the public or our staff and city employees at greater risk by being together we’ll come back,” Gilmore said. “The virtual (meeting) is a tool we can utilize but I’d much rather be in chambers if possible.”

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