My Fellow Coloradans,
Today, I announced that a statewide mask requirement will go into effect at midnight tonight, mandating that every Coloradan older than 10 wear a mask or a face cover in all indoor public spaces, unless that individual has a medical condition where wearing a mask would put them at risk.
I’ve always taken my duty to protect and safeguard all Coloradans very seriously. So I did not make this decision lightly. From the beginning, I’ve said that our policies would be guided not by politics or wishful thinking or pseudoscience, but by cold, hard data and scientific evidence.
The evidence is truly alarming.
The last few days have shown a severe uptick in cases and hospitalizations, and our modeling shows that social distancing in Colorado has fallen to an unacceptable level. I’m sure many of you reading this message have noticed that there are more and more social interactions happening today than were happening a couple of months ago and people aren’t as careful.
Other states have shown us how the trajectory of this virus can change dramatically in a matter of weeks if we let our guard down.
Right now we are seeing the same slow and steady growth of cases and hospitalizations that preceded the explosive, overwhelming growth we are currently seeing in Texas, California, Arizona, Florida, and other states.
We are on the knife’s edge -- and neighboring states have shown us what can happen if we don’t keep our footing.
Because of all this, I cannot stress enough that we need you, the people of Colorado, to take this more seriously. It’s no exaggeration to say that our economy and lives depend on it. We need to live more like we did in May and early June than we did in late June and into July.
We all need to do a better job at limiting our social interactions and making sure we properly distance ourselves from others whenever we’re in public.
And we’re instituting a statewide mask mandate. Increasing the degree of mask-wearing across the state is the easiest, cheapest, and least invasive method to reduce the spread of the virus and keep people and our economy healthy. According to a recent study, wearing a mask reduces your own risk of contracting COVID-19 by 65%.
The ordinance I signed today mandates mask-wearing for those older than 10 in all indoor public spaces. This includes using or waiting for any form of public transportation, a taxi service, car service, or ride-sharing service.
Furthermore, businesses are now required to post signage mandating mask-wearing, and must refuse entry or service to people not wearing masks or face covers. To put it simply: no mask, no service.
There are, of course, some common sense exceptions to the mandate, including:
Eating at a food service establishment
Receiving a service where the mask would interfere with the service like a facial or a beard trimming
Public safety personnel such as law enforcement, firefighters, or EMTs
Speaking to a televised audience
Having to remove your mask for purposes of identification
I’d like to mention that for many Coloradans, this won’t be a major change in lifestyle. Many professions already require mask-wearing in the workplace and many large national companies (e.g. Walmart, Apple, Starbucks, Costco, etc.) currently require mask-wearing in their facilities.
About 40 counties and municipalities in Colorado have already led the way by instituting local mask mandates. This statewide order will not interfere or replace local efforts to encourage mask-wearing -- they will complement these efforts. This mandate sets a baseline but counties and municipalities are free to still go above and beyond the state standard. Local law enforcement agencies routinely enforce trespassing laws and violations of local health orders, and local enforcement of these local mask ordinances should continue as a best practice.
As data shows, mask ordinances work -- codifying a standard into law makes a difference. Counties in Colorado that have local mask ordinances have more people wearing masks and slower rates of COVID-19 transmission, meaning fewer deaths. Furthermore, this isn’t just a public health imperative but an economic one as well. A recent study from Goldman Sachs found that a federal mask mandate could save the U.S. economy from taking a 5% hit to its GDP.
I know that Coloradans are smart, caring, and forward-thinking people, and that mask-wearing is already quite widespread amongst the public. But we need to increase the percentage of people wearing masks, and we need to do it now.
And let me be clear -- wearing a mask is not an excuse to ignore social distancing. It’s also not a pass to start having massive parties. We need to reduce our interactions, ensure social distancing, protect vulnerable populations, and wear masks. That’s the only way this is going to be effective.
Only together can we get past this crisis. We have a very short window to turn things around and everyone needs to do their part. The first step is each and every one of us taking responsibility and wearing a mask.
Let’s do right by each other, let’s protect each other, and let’s move forward together to defeat this virus.
Governor Jared Polis