DENVER (CBS4) – Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide mask mandate on Thursday as the number of COVID-19 cases are showing what he called a “significant uptick.” The governor has spent months urging people to wear masks in order to prevent the further spread of coronavirus, in some cases using strong language, saying “wear a damn mask” and calling those who don’t “selfish bastards.” Now he has issued an executive order that will go into effect on Friday which requires it.
The order for wearing a face mask applies to everyone in the state who is age 11 and older whenever they’re anywhere in public and indoors. People who have medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from wearing face masks are exempt.
“The data is beginning to be alarming,” he said of the spike in new positive cases in recent days.
Announcing a statewide mask requirement for public indoor spaces (like stores & businesses) unless someone has a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask
— Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO) July 16, 2020
Earlier this week, the governor said he was hoping he wouldn’t have to take this action. He said that he believes in “bodily autonomy” and that citizens should have the right to make their own choices. He pointed out that in the midst of a pandemic other people’s health needs to be protected.
“I don’t think there’s any bad faith here. I think, the Coloradans are trying to balance, our sincere belief in liberty and bodily autonomy, with the understanding that these decisions affect others. And that’s why many municipalities have led the way in putting in meaningful mask ordinances that have increased compliance in their area, especially in some of the heavily tourist areas,” Polis said in a news conference on Tuesday.
In reversing his stance on a statewide mandatory mask order, Polis sited two surveys that showed that mandating masks motivates people to wear them. In areas with mandatory mask ordinances, mask use goes from 60% to about 80%, which the governor said slows the spread of the virus and saves lives.
“Colorado’s response is dictated by cold, hard data and the data is beginning to be alarming. … The good news is there is time to act but we’re on the knife’s edge. … To the extent that there’s been a party the last week or two, the party has to end,” Polis said, referring to the fact that the time is now for Coloradans to return to more adherence to social distancing measures and behavior that prevents the spread of the virus.
The order overrides all the decisions by local governments which were opting out of their county’s health department orders. More than half of all states in the country already have some type of mask-wearing mandate.
The following is a look at the week-by-week COVID-19 cases in the state, per the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:
The number of hospitalizations is also starting to increase once again.
Also on Thursday, Polis announced he has issued a two week pause on issuing new variances of coronavirus restrictions to counties across the state as a further effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.