By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – As COVID-19 cases continue to surge and strain Colorado’s health care system, the Denver Broncos are now strongly encouraging fans to wear masks in all the indoor areas at Empower Field at Mile High, regardless of vaccination status.

The new recommendation went into place for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. It includes the Broncos Team Store, restrooms, elevators, all concourses, guest services locations, and club and suite levels.

(credit: CBS)

“The last game I was at it was extremely crowded, so it seems like a good place where there is a risk of transmission and so it just seems like a good idea to wear masks,” said Jane Hittle, who attended the game with her 11-year-old daughter Grace.

It all comes as community transmission is among the highest it’s been in the pandemic, said Dr. David Beuther, chief medical information officer and professor of medicine at National Jewish Health.

“About 1 in 50 people in Colorado are infected,” Beuther said. “That’s a couple thousand people in the stadium this afternoon that are actively infected.”

According to Beuther, transmission is more likely in indoor areas, as well as congested concourses. In the stands, the risk is much lower, but still there.

“You’re crammed in there next to a bunch of people you don’t know in front and behind you yelling and screaming, so it really makes sense to wear a mask in those congregate settings,” Beuther said.

Beuther said masking is just one of many precautions, with vaccination being the best.

On Sunday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced a new public health order requiring vaccinations at all public, indoor, unseated events of 500 people or more in six counties in the Denver metro area.

“Pretty soon we’re going to be more inside here in Colorado and that’s where we’re really going to have to be careful, particularly if transmission rates remain this high.”

In a statement, the Broncos said they will continue to seek guidance from public officials and health experts, as well as adjust policies, “based on the latest recommendations and in accordance with all league protocols.”

Conor McCue