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Friday, July 17, 2020

Community Leaders,

Kara here with the Governor’s Community Engagement team! In an effort to continue to provide you with an official update from the Governor’s office, below are some updates and information that the Governor provided. We appreciate your support in helping to spread these updates to your network.

Quick Links to Stay Up to Date

Topline Update

We currently have 39,344 cases, 1,751 total deaths (1,615 are deaths due to COVID), and 5,994 hospitalizations out of 427,699 completed tests. Every death is a tragedy. There are families mourning across our state today and we keep them in our thoughts.

This case data is broken down by various categories, is updated daily, and can be found here.

Taking Action

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman, and state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy all joined Governor Polis in an important joint press conference on Thursday to announce a statewide mask order for Colorado in light of more alarming COVID-19 data.

The modeling that Doctor Herlihy presented during the conference showed a severe uptick in the last few days, and paints a dire picture going forward. While experts and local elected officials are still watching this trend, it’s alarming enough to require swift action.

Addressing Growing Cases and Hospitalizations

The data presented shows that social distancing in Colorado has fallen dramatically to an unacceptable level of around 40%, and the virus’s reproductive value is significantly higher than one and threatening to grow.

To put this in perspective, Colorado was at about 80% social distancing under the Stay-at-Home order, and about 60% in our current Safer-at-Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors phase. We need to maintain 55% minimum social distancing to sustain our Colorado way of life, which means that we have a functioning economy and our hospitals are not being overrun. Ideally, we would like to achieve 65% social distancing.

While so far, we’ve had slow, steady growth, we are starting to see the same kind of ramp up that happened right before to the sort of explosive exponential growth that Texas, Florida, Arizona, and California are experiencing. At this rate, if we do not change course, we are going to exceed the state’s ICU capacity in September.

A Small Window To Do Our Part

Colorado has a very small window to turn this around, save lives and prevent economic damage. We are on the knife’s edge — and our neighboring states have shown us what will happen if we don’t regain our footing.

The economy and millions of lives depend on the citizens of Colorado taking this pandemic seriously. The numbers are showing that citizens of Colorado aren’t taking this as seriously as we were in the spring. It may be showing up in your daily lives too — you’re probably noticing a lot more interactions and having more interactions than you were a couple of months ago. We need to live the way we did in May – not the way we have been living the past few weeks.

Pause on Variances

At this point, we need to take more drastic measures to keep our economy open. First, we are putting a two-week pause on issuing any new variances to counties in the state. This is the prudent thing to do at this moment in time as we gather more data about the behavior of this virus.

CDPHE is also having conversations with counties who have variances already but have fallen out of compliance by recording higher levels of the virus than their variances allow. These counties need to take bold and urgent mitigation steps to suppress the virus or they risk losing their variances.

Statewide Mask Mandate

Second, we know that masks are one of the least expensive and least invasive tools we have to slow the spread of COVID-19. Studies show it also reduces your own risk of contracting transmission of COVID by 65%.

The bottom line is that if we want to keep our businesses open, protect our economy and our lives, we have to be better about wearing masks.

To that end, the Governor has signed an executive order (Executive Order D 2020 138), effective midnight July 16th, mandating that every Coloradan older than 10 wear a mask or a face cover in all public indoor spaces, unless that individual has a medical condition where wearing a mask will put them at risk.

This includes using or waiting to use any form of public transportation, a taxi service, car service, or ride-sharing service. Businesses are also required to post signage mandating mask-wearing, and must refuse entry or service to people not wearing masks.

In other words: no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service.

Mask Mandate Exceptions

Common sense exceptions to the statewide mask order include:

  • Eating at a food service establishment
  • Exercising alone
  • 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
  • Religious officiants
  • Speaking to a televised audience
  • Having to remove your mask for purposes of identification

For many Coloradans who have been doing their part, this will not be a major change. About 40 counties and municipalities in Colorado have already led the way by instituting local mask orders/.

The Governor appreciates local leaders who have been leading the way on this front. They showed that this is a responsible, bipartisan, common-sense step to take, and that it’s effective and enforceable.

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.

This statewide mask order will not interfere with or replace local efforts to encourage mask wearing, rather it will complement those efforts. The statewide mask ordinance is intended to set a baseline, where counties and municipalities can still go above and beyond the state standard.

Furthermore, many large national companies currently require mask-wearing in their facilities, including:

  • Airlines (Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, United)
  • Apple Store
  • AT&T
  • Best Buy
  • Costco
  • Dollar Tree
  • Lyft
  • Starbucks
  • Uber
  • Verizon
  • And starting next soon — Walmart, Krogers, and Kohls

Because Coloradans are smart, caring, forward-thinking people, mask-wearing is already quite widespread among the general public, but we need to increase the percentage of people wearing masks, and we need to do it right now.

This is not just about Coloradans. It’s also about making sure that out-of-state visitors — especially those from COVID hot zones like Texas and Arizona and Utah who flocked to Colorado over the Fourth of July weekend — respect our laws and our lives by complying with mask ordinances. We cannot close Colorado, but a mask ordinance will help mitigate the threat of viral spread from the tourist population.

The Governor reminded Coloradans that wearing a mask is NOT an excuse to ignore social distancing. It’s also not a pass to start having massive parties. Everyone should do their part to reduce interactions, ensure social distancing AND wear masks to effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Analysis: Counties With & Without Orders

As the administration has said before — we are relying on data and science to make decisions. Research by CDPHE and state agencies shows that mask ordinances work, and putting a standard into law makes a difference. Multiple surveys have shown that counties in Colorado that have mask ordinances in place have more people wearing masks.

Research conducted by the state also shows that counties with mask ordinances have had slower rates of transmission of COVID-19, which means fewer deaths. It’s not just a public health imperative – it’s an economic imperative. As we shared in a previous update, a recent study from Goldman Sachs concluded that a federal mask mandate could save the U.S. economy from taking a 5% hit to GDP.

Right now, we have a small window of time to reverse this alarming trend. The first step is for each and every one of us to take responsibility to wear a mask. We have a choice between more mask-wearing and more shutdowns, and while we have been resistant to instituting a statewide mandate, it’s clear that at this point in time, this is the least-bad of the bad options we have at our disposal.

In a stark example of how effective masks are, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recently published a study reviewing the activities of two hair stylists in Springfield, Missouri, who worked while they were unknowingly contagious with COVID-19. Both stylists wore masks at the salon where they worked, and 98% of the clients they saw wore masks as well. Between the two stylists, they saw 139 clients — and despite the stylists being contagious with COVID-19, coupled with the close proximity that is required to perform a haircut — ZERO of those clients contracted COVID-19.

This is a prime example of how widespread and consistent mask wearing sustains our economy.

Protecting Our Teachers and Students

Given how effective we know masks are at preventing the spread of COVID-19, the administration has announced that medical grade KN95 masks will be sent to schools for teachers and helping districts get the masks they need. This will help increase protections for teachers and students when districts return to in-person learning

Encouraging Older at-Risk Neighbors to Stay at Home

Governor Polis reiterated that as numbers rise, a big part of getting this right is making sure that those who are most at risk — older Coloradans and those with underlying health conditions — are staying home as much as possible.

Under the Safer at Home stage, which we are still under, older Coloradans and vulnerable people should still be staying at home. This means their employers must accommodate them working from home or allow them to collect unemployment insurance, which is an important protection and is vital in empowering at-risk populations to take steps to protect themselves.

To help Colorado get through this crisis, in addition to wearing masks, please reach out to elders, reach out to neighbors who are vulnerable — ask if you can help them. Be a good friend. Be a part of your community’s support system. We need compassion now more than ever, and we need those everyday heroes who step up again and again for their neighbors in need.

This will continue to be a difficult time period that demands much of us. There are no easy solutions in this situation. Together, we can acknowledge the gravity of our circumstances, while maintaining our sense of hope, and faith.

Overall, we have a very short window to turn things around, and everyone needs to do their part — from protecting at-risk populations, to obeying the law and wearing masks, to keeping our distance, to supporting local public health departments and officials, to practicing proper hygiene.

The way we get through this challenging period of time is by stepping up our game and taking this more seriously than we have before.

We greatly appreciate your help to share information during this crisis, and we will continue to send regular updates. As always, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or needs from our office. My cell phone is 720-982-5204. Thank you for doing your part.

You can view the Governor’s press briefing and hear his full remarks here.

Deputy Community Engagement Director

200 E Colfax, State Capitol, Denver, CO 80203