Colorado governor issues statewide mask order: Here's what to know
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order Thursday requiring all people age 10 and older to wear masks or other face coverings over their nose and mouth whenever they are indoors in public.
The order takes effect at midnight.
Fort Collins and Larimer County residents have been under local face covering mandates since early May. Here’s what the addition of the state mandate means:
When and where do I have to wear a mask?
Whenever you’re in a business or other public space indoors, with some exceptions.
Indoor spaces are defined in the order as “any enclosed indoor area that is publicly or privately owned, managed or operated to which individuals have access by right or by invitation, expressed or implied, and that is accessible to the public, serves as a place of employment or is an entity providing services.”
Masks must be worn while using or waiting to use public transportation, taxis or ride-sharing services, such as Lyft and Uber, the order says.
There are exceptions:
- Masks are not required when seated at a table and eating or drinking at a restaurant or other establishment.
- Masks aren't required when receiving personal services, such as where the temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service
- Masks aren't required when exercising alone or with other members of your household if a face covering would interfere with the activity.
- Public safety officials, including law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical personnel, are exempted from the order, as are individuals who are officiating at a religious service or giving a speech for broadcast or an audience.
- Exceptions also exist for people who are hearing impaired or communicating with the hearing impaired and those who cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering.
- The order does not apply to private residences, hotel or motel rooms or residential rooms for students at educational facilities.
Who will enforce the order?
Local law enforcement will be in charge of enforcement for the most part, the governor said, and are being asked to treat violations with the same kind of diligence they would treat trespassing violations.
Businesses that require county and/or state licenses to operate can also have those licenses suspended or revoked for failure to comply.
“It’s a law like any other,” Polis said. “It’s a public health necessity. I’ve heard from many business owners that don’t feel they have the authority to turn away customers without masks. This will help these small businesses make sure their customers are safe and their employees are safe.”
Fort Collins Police Services and the Larimer County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to the Coloradoan's request for comment about how they would handle enforcement of the order.
Fort Collins and Larimer County already required people to wear masks. Does this change anything?
Yes, Polis said, because it removes any ambiguity that might have existed in local ordinances. In Fort Collins, for instance, businesses could only ask customers to comply with the mask order, and enforcement was spotty. Now they can involve local law enforcement in removing and or citing those who refuse to comply with the order. Fines and other penalties can be imposed for violations.
Do I need to wear a mask while walking in my neighborhood or hiking?
Masks are not required to be worn outdoors, where people can maintain safe social distancing by remaining 6 feet or more away from each other. They should be worn outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained, such as at crowded trailheads, state and county health officials have said previously.
Why is this order being issued now?
Colorado has seen a steady rise in the incidence of positive coronavirus tests over the past four weeks, and hospitalizations of those fighting the virus are also on the rise.
Wearing masks will allow businesses to remain open while still limiting the spread of COVID-19, Polis said, and is preferable to returning to the “stay at home” orders that were in place in March and April.
Other states have seen significant increases in the spread of the virus in recent weeks and have had to shut down sectors of their economy again. Polis said he would rather not take such a drastic step in Colorado.
“It’s clear that, at this point in time, this is the least bad of the options we have at our disposal,” Polis said. “We need to take this very seriously; our lives depend on it and our economy depends on it. “We need to live here in Colorado in a sustainable way, like we did in May and early June.”
Polis issued the order just days after saying the state lacked the ability to enforce a mask mandate. Varying rules about which cities, counties and businesses were requiring masks and which were not was reducing the number of people who were choosing to wear them throughout the state, he said.
He said he also was concerned about making sure people traveling to Colorado from other states, especially those where cases are increasing rapidly, know they are supposed to wear masks inside businesses and other public places in the state.
Polis said data shows that more people are wearing masks in cities and counties where public health orders require it, and the increase of new cases of COVID-19 in those cities and counties is occurring at a slower rate than those without mask requirements.
Kelly Lyell is a Coloradoan reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @KellyLyell and find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KellyLyell.news. Help support Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.