Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is issuing a statewide mask order as cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in the state. KSUT's Mark Duggan has more:
The governor issued a new statewide mandate to go into effect Friday, July 17. It overrides the local mask orders already in place in 39 counties and municipalities in Colorado.
"Today, I'm signing an executive order that's effective at midnight tonight that requires that every Coloradan, age 10 and up, wear a mask or face covering whenever they're in public," Polis said in a Thursday briefing on the pandemic.
The order comes as coronavirus cases steadily increase in Colorado. The state isn't seeing a surge like Arizona or Florida, but case counts have increased since mid-June.
The governor has long resisted a mask mandate for Colorado, preferring instead to urge compliance because, as he said, it was the right thing to do. What changed his mind? Getting the latest virus projections from state health officials. At the press conference, state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy showed figures predicting a continued rise in coronavirus cases. Without more social distancing and mask-wearing, she said the state would exceed its ICU capacity in September.
"I'm hoping this is a wakeup call," Polis said.
Mask wearing has become a political football. But a consensus is growing that its an effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19. NPR recently reported on a scenario where masks could prevent thousands of deaths in the next few months.
Polis waved off the inevitable objections to a mask order. He likened it to our societal norm of leaving the house wearing clothing.
The order exempts law enforcement officers, those who can't wear masks for medical reasons, and anyone in the process of eating at a food service establishment. It's in effect for the next thirty days.
The governor is also putting a stop of county variances for two weeks. That's where counties can petition the state to move into expanded reopening phases if they can show that the virus isn't spreading there.
KSUT COVID-19 news reporting is made possible by support from individual donors and the Colorado Media Project.