Jul 16, 2020
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Press Conference Transcript July 16: Issues Mask Mandate
On July 16, Colorado Governor Jared Polis held a press conference where he announced a statewide mask mandate. Read the full news briefing speech transcript here.
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Governor Jared Polis: (00:00)
…these here in the Denver Metro area, for their leadership in managing the crisis from a municipal level, where really the most mixing occurs. People from suburban areas and exurban areas come into cities well beyond their population, they contribute to the overall economy of our state, and the health situation of our state. We’re also joined by Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state’s top epidemiologist. I want to thank her for her important work, she will give you an update. Now, the modeling that Dr. Herlihy will provide, shows the uptake that we’ve had, a significant uptake over the last few days, and show the fairly dire picture going forward if we don’t change our actions and take some changes that we’re talking about today, including more mask wearing and social distancing that are so important.
Governor Jared Polis: (00:53)
And while we’re watching the trend every day, and we hope that the additional precautions that Coloradans have hopefully taken in the last week or two will be born out in the data in the future, this trend is alarming enough, along with additional data points about the efficacy of mask wearing that I’ll be talking about later, that really justify that actions on behalf of protecting our economy and protecting the health of the people of our state. From day one, we approached this crisis and promised to be transparent and show you how we make decisions, what the latest data is regardless of whether news is good or bad. And I’ve said that we will always take the steps necessary to protect Coloradans, protect our economy, and save lives. I am of course glad that while Colorado is not yet a hotspot, the whole country is showing a significant uptake and Colorado has not been an exception from that trend. And we need to make sure that we take actions that prevent Colorado from being in an uptake situation.
Governor Jared Polis: (02:04)
There’s a lot of news that isn’t fun today. It’s really important that you all hear it, you hear the data, you hear the steps, you hear the importance of [inaudible 00:02:11]. I do want to share one positive bit of information. As you know from the start, we set up an innovation response team. Our state has worked very hard to acquire personal protection equipment, masks, gloves, gowns on the international market, which has been extremely chaotic. I mean, literally everybody has a buddy in Jersey. I have a buddy in Jersey. He happens to be a doctor. He went to undergrad with me. I had to call him to go check on some masks there. They didn’t check out. We didn’t buy them. Thank goodness. But the state has been very successful in operating the international supply chains and acquiring PPE. So we want to get that PPE out, at least some of it, to support our school districts.
Governor Jared Polis: (02:54)
And so today I wanted to make sure people knew that we have enough medical grade masks, that we will be able to send some medical grade masks to school districts. We will be able to help school districts meet the needs of their teachers. We’re going to be able to get at least one mask per week for teacher, one medical grade mask out, even broader than teachers. All people who work in a school that face students, librarian and clerk and everybody. So districts have a lot of work to do. They’re working hard. The state wants to help them reach their goal. However, they run the school year. Some are delaying, some are having classrooms. Some are online, some are hybrid, but masks are an important part of that mix, you’ll hear more about masks today.
Governor Jared Polis: (03:42)
And the state will be a partner in helping school districts have the personal protection and equipment that they need to keep staff and students safe in whatever environment that looks like. So I want to thank our state team and Pat Myers and a number of others who work very hard to be able to get enough medical grade masks that the state can help supply and help meet the needs of school districts. I know they’re very hard at work to keep their students and teachers safe. Without further delay, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Herlihy.
Dr. Herlihy: (04:13)
Thank you, governor. Good afternoon. As we take a look at today’s data, I want to focus not just on the number of cases that we’re seeing here in Colorado, or the fact that we’re seeing an increase in the number of cases here in the state, but the fact that we’re seeing an increase in the rate of cases we’re seeing. So we’re seeing growth in the rate of increase. So acceleration of our case numbers. This figure that is shown here shows you the number of cases that have occurred in Colorado by week and they are color coded here to show you a visualization of whether or not cases have increased or decreased from week to week. So the bars that you see in blue represent weeks in a state where we have seen a decrease in the number of cases occurring. The weeks that are shown with red bars represent the weeks where we have seen an increase in cases in the state.
Dr. Herlihy: (05:05)
And also, if you see the dark red color, that corresponds to weeks where we’ve seen a greater increase in the rate of acceleration of this epidemic in the state. And so if you look at our last week of data in this figure, the week of July 5th, what you’ll see is that the growth in our cases has increased. We’ve seen an acceleration from the last week in June through the first week of July. And we’re concerned that this trend is going to continue in the state. Similarly, if you look at the next slide, this shows you hospitalization data. So each of these bars represents the number of hospitalizations that have occurred in Colorado per day. And each of the colorful lines represents a different level of growth rate. So if you look at the red line, that shows you the growth rate that we experienced during the stay at home period of time and early during at safer at home.
Dr. Herlihy: (05:57)
So what you can see by that red line is that we saw a steady decrease in hospitalizations. And if you follow that red line out, we would have continued to see a steady decline in hospitalizations in the state. If you look at the turquoise line, that shows you what we experienced in the state later, during the safer at home period of time, where we saw a leveling out sort of a plateau in the number of hospitalizations occurring. If you look at the orange line, that is where you start to see an increase in the number of hospitalizations in the state and acceleration of the increase of hospitalizations. And so what I’m showing you today is the most recently fit model to our hospitalization that is showing some pretty rapid acceleration in the number of hospitalizations occurring in the state. So that orange line corresponds to a effective reproductive number that our value, we talk about, of 1.78. The previous values as you can see were just above one and below one for previous periods in the epidemic.
Dr. Herlihy: (06:53)
Next slide. So here we focus in on that reproductive number and you can see that several weeks ago, our reproductive number was less than one. Two weeks ago, it was just above one. One week ago, it increased to around 1.3. And currently we estimate that it is somewhere between 1.6 and 1.8. So we are continuing to see that reproductive number go up, which again, represents an acceleration in the number of cases occurring here in the state. And that is similarly shown in the graphic to the right. Next slide. These figures show you the modeling data representing the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions that might be needed in the state under various scenarios. So our latest scenario based on the last few days of data is shown in that orange line.
Dr. Herlihy: (07:43)
Previous slide, thanks. Shown in the orange line. So if you look at that orange line, what you’ll see is a rapid increase in the number of cases in the state that could occur over the next several days. And so when I talked previously about the growth rate being important, that’s really what we’re tracking here. So earlier our predictions with this model had shown slower rates of increase in the number of hospitalizations and ICU beds needed in the state. Unfortunately, what we’re seeing from the last few days of data is showing that we have the potential to exceed our ICU bed capacity in the state in early September with a peak potentially occurring sometime in October. And so being on this path is certainly a place that we do not want to be right now. We are below the level of social distancing that we know is feasible to maintain the transmission of this virus.
Dr. Herlihy: (08:41)
Next slide. So this figure is showing you another trend that we are seeing here in the state. And that is a change in the age distribution of our cases that are occurring. As time has gone on, we’ve seen that a greater proportion of COVID-19 cases are occurring among those under the age of 40. And we also see a recent increase in the number of infections that are occurring in children. So those 0 to 19 years of age, with an emphasis of most of those infections occurring in older children and teens. Infections in older adults remain low relative to other age groups. Similarly, adults aged 40 plus are now comprising a greater proportion of hospitalized populations. We’re seeing an increase in hospitalizations in middle aged adults in the state. And unfortunately just in the last few weeks, we’re now also starting to see more hospitalizations in older adults once again.
Dr. Herlihy: (09:38)
Additionally, we know that one of the concerns that we have here in the state is the fact that we have individuals from across the state that are coming into Colorado and visiting from locations outside of Colorado, where rates of transmission are higher. This graphic shows you some parts of the country where visitors are coming to Colorado, specifically in this figure is visits to Denver County. And so you can see that there is potential risk to Coloradans posed by visitors to our state who are coming from Texas, Arizona, Florida, and other states where rates of transmission are higher than they currently are in Colorado.
Dr. Herlihy: (10:15)
So looking at the number of factors that might be driving this rapid increase in cases that we’ve observed in the last few days, there’s probably several contributing factors. We certainly know that social distancing levels have decreased, which means that there’s increased contact rates among people in Colorado due to changes in behavior or policies. We know that there is probably increased out of household contact rates among younger populations. So younger individuals are probably starting to spread the virus to older populations. We know that those younger populations are probably mixing more outside of their home, resulting in transmission outside of the home.
Dr. Herlihy: (10:52)
We know that there’s the potential for importation of cases from outside of Colorado into the state and contact between visitors out of state with Colorado residents. There’s also, of course, the possibility of random chance. We’re looking at this data and it’s based off of just several days worth of data so we need to interpret it carefully and continue to watch the data over time. But given the trends that we’re seeing, we don’t believe that chance alone is explaining the findings that we’re seeing currently. Thank you very much.
Governor Jared Polis: (11:22)
From the beginning, we’ve really talked about how my response, our Colorado’s response is driven by data, not by politics on any side, not by wishful thinking. Not certainly not by pseudoscience, but by cold hard data. And as you can see, the data is beginning to be alarming. We had very encouraging data from June, Coloradans we’re sustaining it, but there has been some change in the behavior of Coloradans that we need to go back to how we were living in early and make sure that we are more cautious. We need to make sure that we can continue to maintain the necessary social distancing to avoid the virus exponentially taking off in Colorado. And that’s what we’re starting to see now, we can still act, there is a small window of opportunity because if we don’t act at the current rate that we saw, if you extrapolate that out, the state would exceed its ICU capacity in September.
Governor Jared Polis: (12:20)
So that’s the bad news. The good news is there is time. There’s time to act right now, next few days, I hope it started already from the warnings of the last week. We’re really on the knife’s edge. Many nearby states have shown us what will happen. It’s not what may happen. It’s what will happen if we don’t regain our footing and take social distancing and masks seriously. So for starters, I’m hoping that the people of Colorado, that this is a wake up call for those who might have become a little bit lax. We need to take this very seriously. Our lives depend on it and our economy depends on it. And you’re probably observing this anecdotally. You might be noticing that there’s more interactions and people are a little less cautious than they were in May and June. Certainly the 4th of July weekend didn’t help too, we see the effect of out-of-state visitors.
Governor Jared Polis: (13:13)
We need to live here in Colorado in a sustainable way like we did in May and early June. We can’t have this backslide to the way that we have all been acting these last few weeks. To the extent that there’s been a party the last week or two, the party has to end. If we’re going to keep our businesses open, keep our economy open and save lives. At this point, of course, we are also focused on what steps we as a state can take to keep our economy open and save lives. Now, keep in mind the biggest factor is your behavior; reducing your social interactions, wearing masks, washing your hands regularly. That’s the most important. But as policymakers, as mayors, as governors, as commissioners across our state, we always ask ourselves, what is the right thing to do from a policy perspective to make sure that we can keep our economy open and save lives.
Governor Jared Polis: (14:08)
So first thing we’re going to be announcing today is I’m putting a two week pause on issuing new variances to counties in the state of Colorado. That’s the prudent thing to do at this moment in time, as we look at the changes that are made and the more responsible behavior that people are into with the increased masks wearing and hope that their trajectory changes so that additional variances can be granted. We also know that there are some areas that have variances that have increased virus. They have to have mitigation plans or they could lose their variances. That doesn’t change today. That’s always been the process, but the key point is we’re taking a two week time out on variances so that we can get control of this. We have to get control of this in our state. We need to prevent this kind of exponential spread.
Governor Jared Polis: (14:58)
The bottom line is that like all Coloradans, I want to be able to enjoy life and go to a restaurant and get a haircut and keep our businesses open and protect our economy and protect lives. And the data increasingly shows that one of the powerful tools that we as a state have done well on but can do better on, is wearing masks. And that’s why today I’m signing an executive order that’s affective at midnight tonight that requires that every Coloradan in age 10 and up wear a mask or face covering whenever [inaudible 00:15:28] 40 counties and municipalities have shown that this is a responsible bipartisan, common sense step to take. Local law enforcement agencies are enforcing trespassing laws and violations of local health orders. This statewide mask order does not interfere or replace any local effort that encourages mask wearing. And that includes anything with regard to municipal-
Governor Jared Polis: (16:03)
… and that includes anything with regard to municipal ordinance violations or ticketing or anything like that. This is meant to compliment that and provide a state baseline because of all the challenges of moving between jurisdictions and a clarity of messaging. And many professions already require mask wearing, many large national companies currently require mask wearing in all their facilities. Here’s a few, Costco, Best Buy, Walmart, Starbucks, Uber, more and more. This will also help those responsible companies have better enforcement with this order so that their customers and their employees have a reasonable expectation of safety, right? You want to be perfectly safe you stay at home. Reasonable expectation of safety, you should have buying and going out, masks help provide that.
Governor Jared Polis: (16:48)
We need to increase the percentage of people wearing masks. And I’m going to show you how I came to this conclusion because I had some questions about this. Does a mask requirement actually increase mask wearing, and how does increase mass wearing in the Colorado social context affect whether the virus spreads or not? I have some data about that. This isn’t just about Coloradans it’s also about all the folks coming from out of state. This is a key slide really in my decision making process.
Governor Jared Polis: (17:12)
You might recall, what I wanted to know is does it increase mask wearing when there is a mask wearing order of the city or county or in this case, the state? People should be wearing masks regardless of whether there’s an order. I think I’ve said that many times ever since we’ve embraced masks as a mask wearing culture. We have talked a number of times about how you shouldn’t wait for a requirement, it’s a rational thing to do to save your life and protect our economy, protect your loved ones. It turns out that having this kind of ordinance in place does increase mask wearing fairly substantially. Go back to last slide, please.
Governor Jared Polis: (17:52)
There are two different surveys that were done by outside groups, one CDPHE, one outside group. Mask wearing in counties with no mask order, 67%. Pretty good, Colorado is pretty good. That’s one of the reasons we’re not a hotspot, we’re doing pretty good on mask wearing. But with the mask ordinance it went to 83%. The other study showed 49% going to 57%. Now the other piece of information I wanted to know is, okay, I want to make sure mask wearing ordinances don’t make people think everything is safe and they can forget about social distancing, that’s very, very important. Wearing a mask compliments social distancing.
Governor Jared Polis: (18:29)
We wanted to look at, are people focused on maintaining six-foot distance more the same or less with a mask wearing ordinance? And it’s a small difference, but the key thing for me is it wasn’t less. I wanted to make sure that if the places with mask wearing ordinances people weren’t all congregating together just because they thought it was safe with the mask wearing. The good news is if there’s any difference, people are more careful about six-foot distances very slightly in the areas of mask wearing ordinances. This data from these two different data points was key to me in deciding yes, local requirements, accounting requirements can increase mask wearing, and no, it does not make people think that they can forget about social distancing, that’s very important to coming to this decision. Next slide.
Governor Jared Polis: (19:11)
This is even more important data. It’s hard to get your arms around, but what this basically shows is that the areas of our state that have had mask wearing requirements have had slower spread of the virus. The virus has spread less in areas that have had mask wearing orders by a statistically significant amount. And that is an incredibly important data point for me in in making these statewide. What this also shows is even the areas with mask wearing requirements have still been increasing, so we still need to focus on that social distancing, but they’ve been increasing at a lower rate than the cities and counties that don’t have it. Somebody mentioned, “Repeat the details of the mask order.” It’s really simple, wear a mask. I mean, you can get into the details. Basically, it’s a practical way to say, “Wear a mask.” I mean, obviously no one says wear a mask when you’re eating or when you’re working out by yourself. But you don’t have to worry about the details, you just have to know you should wear a mask when you’re in public. If you’re going to a store, if you’re going to the office, you’re going into a place where others congregate, you need to wear a mask, it’s practical. Obviously where you can’t wear a mask you’re not going to wear a mask and nobody would ask you to, but anywhere where you’re with others, public congregation you need to do it, it’s super important.
Governor Jared Polis: (20:37)
Look, we have a choice in Colorado, either more mask wearing and more attention to social distancing, or more damage to our economy and loss of life. I mean, that’s an easy decision to make when you put out that that’s basically the decision we have. And of course, like anybody who cares about liberty and freedom, I’m resistant to institute a statewide mandate. But it’s clear that at this point in time, this is the least bad of the options that we have at our disposal. It will increase mask waring, it will decrease the spread of the virus, it will provide clarity across different borders and it’s the right thing to do.
Governor Jared Polis: (21:12)
And I want to give you an example of how effective masks are, a recent study from Missouri. The CDC published a study where they looked at the activities of two hairstylists in Springfield, Missouri, who both worked while they were unknowingly contagious with COVID-19. Both stylists wore masks at the salon where they worked and 98% of the clients that they served also wore masks. Between the two stylists they saw 139 clients. And despite both stylists being contagious with COVID-19, and despite the close proximity of haircuts, zero clients contracted COVID-19. That is an example of how we can have a sustainable economy and we can get our haircut with COVID-19.
Governor Jared Polis: (21:59)
As I mentioned, given the effectiveness of masks, we also will be helping school districts have the personal protective equipment that they need to be able to protect their staff. We will be able to get them medical grade masks, we’re going to send them to the school district building one per teacher per week and then that will compliment their efforts to have personal protective equipment for their staff and increase protection for teachers and students for school districts regardless of what the environment looks like in the area and what format the year has.
Governor Jared Polis: (22:31)
Finally, before I introduce Mayor Hancock, I just want to make one final point. Wearing a mask is not a political statement. I don’t know how in anybody’s mind it’s became a game of political football. It’s it’s simple, it’s common sense and it’s data. The virus doesn’t care what political party you’re in, the virus doesn’t care what belief system you have, the virus doesn’t care what your ideology is. The virus is the virus and it is a threat to every single one of us. And I completely understand and sympathize with concerns of businesses and workers and the desire to stay safe, and this will help do that.
Governor Jared Polis: (23:10)
It’ll help people who work for instance, in retail and public-facing environments who have been wearing masks as a requirement since they’ve been able to reopen. But this will provide additional protection for them, knowing that their customers, may be 65% weren’t wearing masks before. Now, everyone will be wearing a mask and it’ll help save the lives of many of our retail workers as well.
Governor Jared Polis: (23:34)
If you drive a car, you wear a seatbelt, you obey the speed limit, you drive sober. It doesn’t matter whether you agree politically with speed limits or with drunk-driving laws, but we follow the law. If you have a political extra grind you do that through your elected representatives but we have responsibilities as Coloradans and as Americans to follow the law. And the mask order is a law of Colorado.
Governor Jared Polis: (23:58)
As I said, throughout this crisis we’re going to monitor the data very closely. We’re going to take appropriate actions as we need to, to protect our healthcare, our capacity, lives, the economy, and do what we can to make sure that Colorado can remain a positive outlier with regard to a nation that is having large problems in tackling this virus in a cohesive way. With that let me turn it over to Denver Mayor, Mike Hancock. He’s been a very important partner in working hard to keep the residents of our state’s largest city safe. Yep, Mayor Hancock.
Mike Hancock: (24:32)
Thank you. Thank you, governor. And thank you for this order. This is a tremendous tool for all of Colorado as we begin to continue our efforts to really get ahead of this spike. When we instituted mandatory face coverings in Denver, more about two months ago, it was a decision based on science as you just alluded to. Denver’s health order was part of a bigger strategy to blunt the curve and the spread of the pandemic. Following the governor’s guidance, staying at home, leaving only the essential for essential reasons, physically distancing six feet or more, not gathering in groups. These are strategies that kept Denver and Colorado a head of the curve and we intend to stay there, and that’s why we’re here today and why the governor has made this very wise move.
Mike Hancock: (25:24)
Since we instituted the order we’ve heard from businesses who’ve asked for support and signage and we’ve supported that. But we’ve also heard from residents who report when they see a violation of someone not wearing a mask in public. And so this statewide tour order is a powerful, powerful tool for all of us across the state. Let me just give you one example. I shared this with the governor and Mayor Kauffman earlier. Denver is one of the top three cities in terms of our airport seeing passengers come through our airports.
Mike Hancock: (25:59)
Well, we know during this pandemic that people are either seeking beaches or mountains. And with the beaches really being places where there are hotspots, they are coming to our mountains. Well, if you’re up in a resort in our mountains, while the staff might be wearing a mask, the only tool they have is to ask for compliance for people to wear a mask, to volunteer to wear mask and comply with that request. Well, this state order now gives them the tool to say, “No one has a choice anymore, we all must wear masks to protect each other.”
Mike Hancock: (26:32)
What we’re going to be doing over the coming days in Denver is we’ll continue to follow up on every one of the complaints and concerns that we hear from people with warnings and citations and appeals like this, asking our neighbors to do the right thing to comply and to mask-up. We called our regional partners and we’re grateful. Last week several mayors joined together and wrote a letter and asked for our regional partners to mask-up as well, and we want to thank Tri-County Health as well as Jefferson County for stepping up to the play. This is how we find balance and learn to live in a COVID reality, tempering our progress when the data shows we need to slow down and do the right thing.
Mike Hancock: (27:17)
That means taking it fashion like this when we see 80 new cases a day and not waiting for those numbers to jump to 2000 as we’ve seen in other cities like Miami to react. We’ve seen a growing number in cities across the country. I commiserate with my friends and counterparts all over this country. We’re having to roll-back their openings because they understand just as we do how devastating having to shut this economy down would be to our businesses and to employees.
Mike Hancock: (27:48)
With the leadership of Governor Polis, and partners like Mayor Kauffman, we are showing the nation how Colorado leads by prioritizing the health and safety of residents and the businesses that support our community. We recognize that we cannot do this alone, none of us can do this alone. And so through this order we get the opportunity to all work together to keep each other safe. And governor again, I want to thank you for this because this again gives a very powerful tool to all of our businesses and workers throughout Colorado.
Governor Jared Polis: (28:20)
Thank you. And we have two mayor Mikes with us. Mayor Mike Kauffman of Aurora, has been a very important partner as we work to keep businesses open, keep folks safe, and I’m proud to turn it over to Mayor Kauffman.
Mayor Kauffman: (28:33)
Thank you, governor. I strongly support Governor Polis’ statewide face mask mandate because I believe that it is the best and that it is the least invasive and least costly public health option that is available to us to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The alternatives are to shut down businesses and to force our schools to remain closed if no preventative actions are taken and the COVID numbers increase to the point where further restrictions are required.
Mayor Kauffman: (29:14)
And yesterday I got a call from the Cherry Creek School Superintendent yesterday morning, Dr. Scott Siegfried. And he talked to me about a mask mandate and this is what he said. He said, “When you consider the simple steps we can take to mitigate the spread of the virus such as wearing a mask, I have one simple question, ‘Why wouldn’t we do everything possible to help ensure that students can have school this year? As a community, I hope we do the right thing to protect teachers, staff, students, and their education.'”
Mayor Kauffman: (29:55)
And let me just say I know there’s going to be some grumbling about this, I get that. It’s a mandate from government. And yes, I get that some people are going to say this is a hardship. But let me tell you this. I meet with small businesses every day that haven’t been able to open up and then that if things get worse we’ll have their businesses shuttered again, that’s a hardship. A child not being able to go to school, that’s a hardship. I mean, I think we need to put it in context, that this is really again the least invasive approach that we can do at this time as a preventative strategy. We have got to get children back to school, we have got to open up this economy, and that’s what I fear most is the inability to do that. And that’s why I’m here today supporting the governor. Let me tell you this, before I wasn’t on board when the numbers were going in the right direction and the current strategy was just working. Hospitalizations moving down. Yes, there were more positives but we were doing more testing but now it’s different and now I’m worried.
Mayor Kauffman: (31:20)
A lot of people are hurting because of the restrictions that have been imposed for the time that they were imposed and some of them are still honest. And we do a food drive every once a week in Aurora, food distribution drive. We have about 500 families. And that’s really the depth of the suffering that has happened. If people think wearing a mask is a hardship they need to think about the others in our society that have been suffering and they would suffer more if we have to reenact even more of these restrictions and not go forward and open up this economy. I want to thank the governor for doing this and-
Mayor Kauffman: (32:03)
Forward and open up this economy. I want to thank the Governor for doing this and quite frankly, the Governor and I have had calls over the last couple of weeks. Well, I’d asked the governor for this. Tri-County Health just passed a mandate for the three counties that the city of Aurora is in, Douglas County, Arapahoe County and Adams County, but it was done with an opt-out clause and so it’s going to create a patchwork within the Denver Metro area. And the fact is that the majority of the workforce in Aurora, the 54th largest city in America, third largest city in Colorado, 382,000 in population. The majority of the workforce leaves Aurora during the morning comes back in the late afternoon. And so the notion that we can have this patchwork and it would be effective is just not possible and that’s why over the last two weeks I asked the governor for action. And he never shared with me where he was on it, but thank you for listening Governor and thank you for your action today in putting Colorado on the right track.
Governor Jared Polis: (33:21)
And yeah, you shouldn’t have to look at a map and see what jurisdiction you’re in to know if you’re going to be safe when you’re going to the store. Workers in stores, customers and businesses deserve to be a safe as reasonably possible everywhere in Colorado because we care about every Coloradan and we’re all interconnected. You might live in Aurora and work in Denver and visit your kids in Thornton. We’re really interconnected and it’s really important we approach public health and keeping our economy open in a interconnected way. Thank you to both mayors. As you can see, this is not a partisan thing. We are united using data, using science Democrats and Republicans, independents, rural, suburban, urban, left, right, and center to protect people of this state and protect our economic opening.
Governor Jared Polis: (34:10)
I want to reiterate a big part of getting it right as numbers rise is also protecting those who are most at risk. And if you have preexisting conditions, if you’re an older Coloradan, stay home as much as possible. If we want to help get our state through this crisis, in addition to wearing masks, reach out to an elder you know, offer to bring groceries to their home, ask if you can be of help so that they don’t have to go out, be a good friend, be a part of every community support system. We need compassion now more than ever and we need those everyday heroes, including you to step up again and again for neighbors in need. That begins by wearing a mask, but it doesn’t end by wearing a mask.
Governor Jared Polis: (34:56)
This will continue to be a difficult time that demands a lot of us. We wish that wearing masks was a silver bullet and solved everything. It doesn’t. We have to keep up the social distancing, not have large groups, avoid interactions, really focus on staying safe. Masks are an important part of that, they compliment that, but we need to do better in other areas too. And it’ll likely continue to be difficult for the next few weeks and months.
Governor Jared Polis: (35:23)
Now, this is the situation we are in, not the situation that we want to be in or that we wish upon it ourselves, but we must take it seriously or it will deteriorate as it has in other states. As it’s written in Proverbs 23:18, “For there will be a future and your hope should never fail.” And look, we have a bright future in Colorado. We’re going to get through this. There will be a vaccine or cure, but in the meantime, we have to live in a way that’s sustainable from a social perspective, a health perspective, a psychological perspective and economic perspective, and we are not currently living that way. We were living that way late May, early June. We need to live like that, masks and increase usage give us a little more freedom, but we cannot take this virus for granted. The minute we do it will overtake us as it is overtaken our brothers and sisters in other parts of the country. We’re going to get through this, but we need to step up our game and we need to take this more seriously than we ever have. With that, we’re happy to take some questions
Speaker 1: (36:41)
Governor, a week ago, we sat here and he said that a mask mandate was unenforceable. I wonder what makes you think that Coloradans would listen to this mask mandate now that you’ve said that you couldn’t enforce it? And also I wanted to ask if this is an inflection point now that we’re seeing these cases rise, if we should have done this earlier and maybe we were too overzealous us to loosen some restrictions?
Governor Jared Polis: (37:02)
The two areas that convinced me that this would work is looking at the impact that mask ordinances have had, increasing mask wearing 15% over areas that have not had those ordinances. It’s not so much because of the enforcement of those ordinances. They’re not widely enforced, but the mere clarity of message of those ordinances in the areas that have them have successfully increased mask wearing by 15% and also led to a reduction in the spread of the virus. The state has a few ways to work with local law enforcement around enforcement. This creates a nexus to violating state laws around trespassing, which if somebody were to run into a store naked or without a mask, they are trespassing. And this gives that store the ability to call local law enforcement to enforce a trespassing charge, to make sure that they can keep their customers and their workers safe. And in addition, we also can make sure that businesses are following this protocol by making sure that their licenses are always have to follow the health requirements. That’s with restaurants and bars, not every business, but they’re businesses that have to follow licensing requirements will also have to follow these. Like in any law, of course, we require local buy in and local enforcement, but the very existence of this kind of order alone from this data that’s been provided me in the last few days, I’m confident will increase mask wearing in Colorado.
Spencer Wilson: (38:47)
Hi, Governor, this is Spencer Wilson with KKTV 11 News. I was going to check and see, what would you say to those communities like Colorado Springs that have been resistant to putting in place their own mandate or their citizens who have been actively protesting any mask mandate?
Governor Jared Polis: (39:01)
Well, I think this can certainly make it easier on some local decision makers who would rather that the state make this decision to keep folks safe. What I think people have to remember is that we’re all part of Colorado. And just because you live in unincorporated El Paso County commute to Colorado Springs, go up to Castle Rock for your haircut, we all are in this together. And because of the inner jurisdictional nature of the virus, it caused for a statewide response. The virus doesn’t stop at city lines, the virus doesn’t stop at county lines. We needed to coordinated, unambiguous state message with moral clarity and scientific clarity. And we’re providing that today. Wear a mask when you’re in public and around others.
Speaker 2: (39:47)
[crosstalk 00:39:47] Governor, as was asked earlier that this is a complete turnaround from what you just said on Tuesday, you mentioned that you didn’t want to infringe on people’s liberties. And you also said a week ago that you did not have the enforcement that would needed to enforce such a mandate, but what changed and how do you do this now?
Governor Jared Polis: (40:08)
Well, the two data points that helped change my mind were that the existence of local ordinances, which are generally sporadically enforced or seldom enforced, the mere existence of those local ordinances increased mask wearing by 15% in the areas of our state that have them. I am confident that a statewide requirement will also increase the mask wearing in our state and there’s really no excuse not to take action. That’s new information that’s based on those two studies that I indicated and that was presented to me in the last couple of days.
Governor Jared Polis: (40:38)
The second piece is the deterioration of the state, the virus, which is expanding, hospitalizations are up, case counts are up. As Mayor Coffman said, this is the least costly and simplest intervention that we can do. It would be inexcusable in my mind to even be talking about closing down businesses or limiting commerce if you haven’t even instituted a mask wearing a requirement for Coloradans. And we’re hoping that along with Colorado’s attentiveness and taking this seriously around social distancing, coupled with mask wearing will alter the trajectory in a way that we can avoid becoming a hotspot.
Speaker 3: (41:19)
Hello, Governor, this is [inaudible 00:41:21] at Bloomberg News in Denver. What would compel you to order people to stay at home again.? And I’d like to hear from Mayor Hancock and Mayor Coffman on possible stay at home orders. Thank you very much.
Governor Jared Polis: (41:32)
Well, that that’s not what we’re talking about today. I think there’s not a resident of Colorado and there’s not an elected official in Colorado that doesn’t want to do everything they can to avoid having to ever stay at home again for a long period of time. The way that we achieve that is mask wearing, avoiding social interactions wherever possible, staying six feet from others, washing your hands regularly, limiting your contacts. That’s the way that we do that. Be smart, be clean, be careful. That’s how we get that done. Mayor Hancock?
Mike Hancock: (42:05)
Governor, I repeat what you just said and I think that’s the overriding message here. We will do everything we can to try to avoid having to issue stay at home orders. That’s not where we want to go. And so the reason why we’re all taking these very proactive steps to mitigate the spike that we are seeing in our state, but we’re seeing it also around the country. We’ve got plenty of examples of why we want to take these steps today. And so I absolutely agree with you. We want to avoid going to that.
Mike Hancock: (42:33)
But let me just say that we look at a body of data that help us to make some very good decisions. This is data-driven, science driven, medically advised driven from professionals and so we are listening. And when we see a combination of a lot of these metrices that we monitor, I will just say that it would have to get tragically bad for us to have to reinstitute stay at home orders. And what that means is that we have quite a few metrics that are driving to a spike that we cannot control. Our hospitals are at very serious risk of being overrun, for example, along with the number of infection cases that are growing as well. Let’s not really spend a lot of time talking about that because our hope is that we never have to go back there, but understand that we are monitoring many metrices that will give us guidance on what decisions we have to make.
Governor Jared Polis: (43:25)
Mayor Kauffman: (43:26)
This is a preventative measure with such urgency, I believe, to prevent ever getting to a stay at home order. We lost a lot of jobs in the stay at home order. We are beginning to recover now and to have another setback like that would be just, I think, traumatic to this economy and would hurt a lot of families.
Speaker 4: (43:53)
[inaudible 00:43:53] says that you’re [inaudible 00:43:56] a business doesn’t, it stands the chance of losing its license. What if an entire county or a city decides not to do this? Can you withhold funding?
Governor Jared Polis: (44:05)
Actually counties have been under this order for the last few weeks. Anybody who does business in a county office has had to wear a mask. This has already been in place for counties. I don’t remember if it’s been in place for cities or not. I think most cities have probably instituted something like this themselves, probably not every city, to protect their employees when customers come in. But look, we have a lot of laws in Colorado and we have responsible business owners in Colorado who follow the law. Whether it’s a handicap access law, whether it’s a law to make sure that there’s not dangerous asbestos that’s contaminating the site, this is a law like any other. It’s a public health necessity and I’ve heard from many business owners that have been frustrated that they haven’t felt they’ve had the moral authority to turn away customers that aren’t wearing masks and their employees are worried about it. It’s bad for morale. I’ve heard from some that have had employees quit because they worry that they weren’t able to enforce the mask wearing requirement. This will help those small businesses make sure that their customers are safe and that their employees are safe.
Speaker 5: (45:21)
Hi Governor Polis, this is Joe [inaudible 00:45:22] with Denver 7. I know when the Red Flag Law took effect, you had sheriffs that came out and said they would not enforce that. How would you handle it in this case if anyone in law enforcement or sheriffs that they wouldn’t respond to a call about somebody not wearing a mask?
Governor Jared Polis: (45:37)
Well, that’s where I think this also answers some of the other questions. How do you get that enforcement? I think that every sheriff takes a matter of illegal trespassing seriously. If somebody is on private property, the owner of the property says, “You need to leave. You’re violating our terms of service.” Maybe you’re naked. Maybe you’re not wearing a mask. Maybe you’re screaming and yelling. Maybe you’re yelling, fire, fire, and there’s not a fire. Law enforcement is very responsive to those types of trespassing complaints that are lodged by a private establishment. I feel that that is a effective way that we can work with local law enforcement, sheriffs and police chiefs to make sure that people are able to protect their businesses. Mike, Mayor Coffman?
Mayor Kauffman: (46:30)
Governor, we’ve had city of Aurora, I’m sure other municipalities have had experience in terms of enforcement and our position has been not to use law enforcement for the enforcement of public health orders, but to use our code enforcement for that. And so that could be certainly against the business that was willfully not complying by making sure that people coming into that business were wearing a mask. We haven’t had an incident, but I’m sure that if it was a trespass issue where someone refused to put on a mask and refused to leave, then I suspect then hat would fall under law enforcement as a law enforcement issue.
Governor Jared Polis: (47:11)
[inaudible 00:47:11] not just law enforcement. The question asked about sheriffs. It’s municipal codes, county codes, and state licenses. There’s a whole constellation of ways that people can have a reasonable expectation of safety.
Rick Sallinger: (47:26)
Governor, Rick Sallinger from channel 4. As has been discussed, a number of counties and municipalities don’t like being told that people have to wear a mask. Given Colorado’s home rural provisions, how do you make this stick statewide?
Governor Jared Polis: (47:44)
Well, I think it’s more than cities and counties that don’t like being told to wear a mask, I don’t think any Coloradan likes to wear a mask. I certainly don’t. I can’t wait until this is all over.And we have a big bonfire with all these masks and we all hug each other and get together, but that’s not where we are today. And I think Coloradans across our state understand that they want that reasonable expectation of safety as they go…
Governor Jared Polis: (48:03)
… across our state understand that they want that reasonable expectation of safety as they go about their lives. And frankly, the vast majority of people are wearing masks, they’re being careful, and it’s unfair to those Coloradans that are doing the right thing, that they might have somebody next to them in the aisle who’s coughing without a mask that makes all of the precautions that they’ve taken worthless just because of that one act of irresponsibility.
… rural play into this?
Governor Jared Polis: (48:27)
Well, we have a home rule cities, statutory cities, counties. This is a statewide mask order. Many of our home rule cities have additional steps beyond this statewide order, right? So in some areas, particularly tourist areas, the municipal orders where they actually have tickets, 100 bucks, five, whatever it is.
Governor Jared Polis: (48:46)
I think Jefferson County has a $1,000 ticket if you’re violating it. This is not that. That compliments this. If that works for your home rule city, if that works for your county, by all means do it. This is the statewide baseline to make sure that no matter where you go, you have that reasonable expectation of safety.
Hello, Governor. [foreign language 00:01:10]?
Governor Jared Polis: (50:42)
[ Foreign language 00:01:23].
Mayor Kauffman: (50:48)
[Foreign language 00:01:59].
I looking at the exceptions for the statewide order right now, and I wanted to ask, why are public safety personnel, specifically law enforcement, exempted from the statewide order?
Governor Jared Polis: (51:09)
Generally speaking, our municipal police departments, our sheriff’s deputies, our state troopers wear masks for their safety, and you have some fine gentlemen here in the room that are wearing their masks. There are times when law enforcement needs to vocally project across the distance, or engage in loud communications or orders, and I wanted to make sure that in no way, does a mask order reduce public safety. So they will have the discretion within law enforcement to keep their officers safe, and they will do so when possible, but there are times when wearing a mask is incompatible with the public safety requirements of serving in law enforcement.
Kara Mason: (51:48)
Hi, Governor. This is Kara Mason from the Sentinel in Aurora. As much as we want to say masks shouldn’t be political, I think we know that they are. So given that, do you think it’s a safer bet or more effective to have these orders coming from you, somebody who was elected by the majority of the state, rather than local public health departments?
Governor Jared Polis: (52:08)
I do think that might influence a few people. I know there’s been some that it rubs the wrong way that somebody who might not be accountable directly to the public issues the order. So I hope that there’s a broader compliance with a statewide order as perhaps there are with municipal orders that elected officials do. I think that could very well be a factor for some people.
Governor Jared Polis: (52:28)
Look, whatever gets you to wear a mask. Wear a mask. I hope it’s just very simply the argument that you’re saving lives and could be saving your own life, saving our economy. It’s the law. There’s a lot of reasons to do it. It’s important that everybody wear a mask and stay six feet apart from others whenever possible.
Governor, clearly we’re in some level of crisis here. Maybe not as bad as other states or as bad as we were in earlier. So given that, why is now the time that you’ve decided we should no longer be under an eviction moratorium? And do the rising numbers motivate you to reconsider that in any way?
Governor Jared Polis: (53:02)
So I want to be clear. We’re trying to act proactively to avoid a crisis. We have capacity today in our hospitals. The rate of infection has increased. I think today alone over 500 people tested positive. We were down, as you know, in the 200 range. Hospitalizations are up, but we are not at crisis levels. We are not in a hotspot like Texas or Florida or Arizona or parts of California.
Governor Jared Polis: (53:29)
We hope that by making these changes now, by instituting required masks wearing, by reemphasizing the need to be six feet away from others, and to reduce your social interactions, if Coloradans do these things, we hope to avoid the kind of situation that South Florida is in, and that parts of Texas are in.
For the state, I mean, even if it’s not a full-blown crisis, whatever word you want to call it, there’s a lot of people vulnerable now to eviction for the same reason that they might’ve been when you issued the moratoriums a couple months ago. So why did you drop that policy?
Governor Jared Polis: (54:05)
Do you address that, [inaudible 00:54:05]? Okay. Yeah, so I mean, you’re talking about the economic, I guess, aspects rather than the health aspects. I mean, currently the only kinds of businesses that aren’t able to really open in our state are nightclubs and bars, and that’s because I don’t think anybody’s figured out how we can have that kind of social environment that is the core value proposition of those businesses like a nightclub in this pandemic environment. I hope we figure it out. I hope other places figure it out. But other than that, people generally should be back at work and earning money. I mean restaurants, and not that they have the full demand that they always have, and some stores are doing more business, some are doing less business. Obviously, we have a higher unemployment rate.
Governor Jared Polis: (54:48)
While we’re doing better than the country, we’re doing worse than we did as a country, even during the great recession. So, of course there’s economic difficulties, but the goal of what we’re announcing today is to hopefully prevent the health situation from deteriorating to the point where it destroys jobs and hurts our economy more.
Maryanne Goodland: (55:08)
Hi, Governor. Maryanne Goodland with Colorado Politics and I have a two-part question. Can home rule communities opt out of this? And if not, what’s the legal basis that this order is on?
Governor Jared Polis: (55:29)
Were those two questions, or was that one? Was that both of them?
Maryanne Goodland: (55:32)
It’s a two-part question.
Governor Jared Polis: (55:36)
So there is no opt-out. We talked about the inner-jurisdictional nature of Colorado. I mean, if you live in Aurora and you commute to Castle Rock, and you go to a workout in Denver, I mean, you need that reasonable … Two things. You need that reasonable level of safety, no matter where you live. Number two, it affects the public health situation everywhere in the state, the actions you take anywhere in our state. And three, clarity of message, right? People shouldn’t be inspecting a map to know where it’s safe to go to the store.
Governor Jared Polis: (56:09)
Colorado is open for business. Colorado is doing it in as safe a way as reasonably possible. Statewide clarity, moral clarity, health clarity, no matter where you live, no matter how you work. While we’re pausing variances, we are still continuing if areas of our state or counties are ready to enter Protect our Neighbors phase.
Governor Jared Polis: (56:32)
The Protect our Neighbors phase, which is the maximum reopening at the county’s discretion during a pandemic, and that just opened, that process, and I think some counties are doing that, they can drop the mask wearing requirement in that area, just as they can have other activities in a larger way.
Governor Jared Polis: (56:53)
That is very unlikely to be the case for the Denver metro area in the near future. However, there are areas of our state that can show sustained low virus count and meet that criteria to be able to further open and enter that phase, in part, because they have less mixing with other areas of the state.
… seven, they went into the grocery store with a mask on. They decided to hell with it, I’m going to take it off. Are you encouraging those businesses to call law enforcement or somebody in aisle seven with them to call 9-1-1? How do you see that working, because it seems like that’s going to happen?
Governor Jared Polis: (57:36)
I would just encourage Coloradans not to be stupid and not to do that. I mean, it’s not so much the fear of law enforcement that is leading to people wearing masks. It’s the desire to protect your own life, it’s desire to protect the lives of your loved ones, and it’s a desire to have a robust economic recovery that leads people to where masks.
Governor Jared Polis: (57:57)
I think that this clarity of message will help because it is directed at those that may wear masks part of the time, may leave them at home, may not wear them correctly. We want you to know that bipartisan leadership of our state wants you to take this more seriously, and that’s the message that we’re sending today.
Mike Hancock: (58:21)
I love this questioning that’s going on, Stephan, and not just you, but everybody about can a city opt out, can we do this? The reality is, I think it says a hell of a lot more about the person unwilling to wear a mask than it does the person wearing the mask. The reality is that I say a lot about how I think about you when I put my mask on, and the fact I want to protect you.
Mike Hancock: (58:40)
And when I see you without a mask, you’re saying what you think about me. And that’s really unfortunate because I think, as mayor Kaufman pointed out, this is the easiest, least expensive thing we can do to demonstrate to one another the importance of how I care about you, but also how we can begin to stop, or stunt, the spread of this virus.
Mike Hancock: (58:59)
And so let me just share with you briefly how it works in Denver. If I am a patron of a grocery store, and I see you take your mask off, I can come to you and say, “Man, would you do me a favor and put your mask back on?” Or I can let management know that there’s someone in your store without a mask. And management now, under our order, but now certainly under state order, has a responsibility either require them to put it on or ask them to leave the store. And then if they choose not to do that, then it becomes a different situation.
Mike Hancock: (59:28)
But the reality is, this is not a criminal thing. We’re not trying to do criminal compliance. This is, it’s civil. Excuse me. And two, we’re asking you just to do the right thing for all of us, based on humanity. And so again, I think it says a heck of a lot more about the person who doesn’t want to wear a mask, who wants to politicize it, who wants to make it about liberty. When in reality, it really is about humanity and about protecting one another.
Mayor Kauffman: (59:55)
Aurora, in enforcing past restrictions did not use law enforcement resources, but code enforcement resources. Obviously, I have to sit down with city council and decide how we’re going to move forward with this particular mandate. But my guess is it will be the same.
If you would, for the sake of our viewers, your feed cut off right after you said that it would go effective at midnight, would you just give the specifics of what you’re saying today? Our viewers at home did not hear that. And then, the second part of that question, the second part I have is, would you also now reconsider perhaps doing something to stop visitors coming in from other states or quarantining them when they come in?
Governor Jared Polis: (01:00:38)
So this statewide mask requirement starts at midnight tonight, where Coloradans, whenever they are in a public place, going to the store, a business, an office will need to wear a mask. That’s already been the case in about 65% of the state where people live. This now will apply everywhere. So both employees, as well as customers, will have that reasonable expectation of safety, right?
Governor Jared Polis: (01:01:03)
Now, if you want to be perfectly safe, you’re staying at home and avoiding social interactions. But if you want that reasonable expectation of safety, if you want to go about your life, but you want to do it in as safe way as reasonably possible, that will now be the case throughout the entire state of Colorado.
Governor Jared Polis: (01:01:19)
So Colorado, as part of United States, has no ability or no knowledge of who comes in and out of our state and border a number of states. We’re landlocked. The key aspect is, while there are people that are likely bringing the virus, we have to make sure that they don’t spread it to people here. The mask wearing will be an important part of that.
Governor Jared Polis: (01:01:36)
It’s important to educate tourists, to make sure that they know that they are subject to this when they’re within our state. We’re working with Denver and Denver International Airport, other state entry points, to make sure that everybody entering our state knows that they have to wear a mask when they’re around others in Colorado. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you.