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Colorado governor issues statewide mask mandate

Colorado Gov. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisDirect cash payments have been critical for Colorado families — Congress must pass more Colorado investigating possible second case of coronavirus variant in National Guard members Colorado confirms first case of highly contagious COVID-19 variant in US MORE (D) on Thursday issued an executive order requiring residents to wear face masks in public indoor settings as the state experiences a sustained increase in coronavirus cases. 

The order, which is set to go into effect at midnight, makes Colorado the latest state to issue a statewide mask mandate due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 3 million people in the U.S. and accounted for about 137,000 deaths. 

Polis said at a news conference that the order would require people age 10 or older to wear a face covering in public indoor spaces when they're not able to practice social distancing, according to reports. Those who violate the mandate could face civil or criminal penalties, the governor said. 

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“Look, in Colorado, there’s no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service,” Polis said. “Very simple.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Colorado health officials had reported about 38,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and about 1,700 deaths stemming from it. The state has experienced a marked increase in daily cases since June, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

The state reported a 40 percent increase in cases last week, The Denver Post reported, noting that hospitalizations have experienced an uptick as well. 

“We need a coordinated, unambiguous state message with moral clarity and scientific clarity, and we’re providing that today,” Polis said. 

Polis had previously said that it wasn't within his authority to issue a statewide mask mandate. Ahead of his order, about 40 cities and counties in the state had issued public mask mandates of their own, The Denver Post noted.

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While he originally resisted mask orders, Polis has been outspoken about the need to wear face coverings in public to help slow the spread of the virus. In a Facebook post on Sunday, Polis wrote that anyone refusing to wear a mask was a "selfish bastard."

“The emerging scientific data is clear: wearing a mask doesn’t only protect others, it also significantly reduces your own risk of getting Coronavirus," he said. "So if you’re a selfish bastard and wearing a mask to protect others isn’t enough of a reason to do so, then maybe protecting yourself is?”

He later defended the remarks, saying they were one of the ways he was communicating the importance of face coverings when it comes to mitigating community transmission. 

“That means direct, it means humor, it means appeals to people's patriotism, both with regard to their pride of being Americans as well as their pride of being Coloradans,” he said.

Dozens of states, and Washington, D.C., have implemented mandates requiring residents to wear face coverings in public. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) also announced Thursday that his state would start requiring masks in public. 

However, some state and local leaders have resisted such a wide-scale directive; Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Wednesday issued an executive order to prevent local municipalities from mandating face coverings in public. Kemp's order said residents are “strongly encouraged to wear face coverings as practicable."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released guidance urging Americans to wear face coverings. CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement earlier this week that “cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus."