A screen grab from Polis' Thursday press conference broadcast on his Facebook page.

Polis issues statewide mask order that includes all indoor businesses

DENVER — In response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis announced Thursday he will issue an executive order mandating the wearing of masks in all public, indoor spaces.

The order, which goes into effect at midnight, applies to anyone 10 years or older.

“No mask, no service. It’s simple,” Polis said during a press conference in Denver. “… The party has to end if we are going to keep our businesses open.”

Exceptions to the order include eating at a restaurant and exercising alone. Public safety personnel, religious officiants and those speaking to a televised audience are exempt.

Polis said his office is taking a two-week break from issuing any county-level variances to COVID-19-related restrictions. Counties with existing variances must take “bold and urgent mitigation steps” or risk losing them, he said. 

The state’s virus response “is driven by data and not by politics on either side, not by wishful thinking and not by pseudoscience,” he said. 

Colorado has seen increases in COVID-19 cases every week since June 14, according to state data. Hospitalizations have also ticked up since Polis relaxed his initial stay-at-home order in May.

If current trends continue and “we don’t act … the state would exceed its [intensive care unit] capacity in September,” Polis said. 

The governor’s decision to enact a statewide mask mandate represents a reversal of course as Polis said earlier this month that such an order is unenforceable.

“Like anyone who cares about liberty and freedom, I’m resistant to instituting a statewide mandate,” Polis said. “But it is clear that this is the least bad of our options.”

He said he was convinced to make a move when he was presented with data that suggests areas with mask mandates increase mask wearing in public by 15% compared to those areas without a mandate.

The order says violators will be subject to civil and criminal penalties and could be charged with trespassing among other crimes. 

Conservative politicians around the state and nation have been staunchly opposed to mask mandates, but Republican Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman joined Polis Thursday to announce the new order. 

“I believe that [the mask mandate] is the least invasive and least costly public health option that is available to us to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Coffman said. “The alternatives are to shut down businesses and for our schools to remain closed if no preventative actions are taken.”

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