Sept 25, 2020 | By Bella Staal | Illustration by Jubilee Rivera-Hernandez
Governor Jared Polis announced Sept. 12 that the statewide mask order will be extended for another 30 days, until Oct. 12. This is the second time the mask order has been extended after being introduced in July.
The Executive Order requires that all individuals over the age of 10 wear a mask within any public indoor spaces or when using any public transportation services. Those who refuse to wear a mask in these circumstances may be subject to criminal or civil penalties, according to The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). People who are hearing impaired or communicating with someone who is hearing-impaired, or cannot medically tolerate a mask, are not required to do so. Additionally, if someone is exercising outside separately from others, seated at a restaurant, officiating a religious service, or delivering a public broadcast, they are exempt from the mask order.
The renewed order comes as cases in Colorado continue to grow at a higher rate. The CDPHE reports that there have been over 65,000 cases of COVID-19 in Colorado and over 1,900 deaths. The most recent reported weekly number of cases was 3,439 (the week of Sept. 13 to Sept. 20), which is the highest weekly number of cases that Colorado has had since July.
Polis was initially hesitant to issue a statewide order. Of the states currently under a mask order, Colorado was the 28th to issue one. According to the CDPHE, the state waited to issue a mask order because “The governor and state public health officials know masks are one of the most effective tools we currently have to limit the spread of COVID-19, but orders are often best issued and enforced at the local level.” They also mention small business as an important factor, stating that “The executive order requires businesses to refuse service to customers who are not wearing masks, which in turn will help slow the spread of the virus and ensure businesses can remain open with precautions during the pandemic.” It also “eliminates inconsistencies” between different counties.
Colorado is currently one among many states that has faced lawsuits for its mask order. In July, Republican candidates for the state legislature, Donna Walter and Mark Milliman, filed lawsuits against Boulder, Larimer, and Fort Collins counties for their mask mandates. They claimed that the mask requirement violated First Amendment protections of free speech. More recently, Colorado House Minority Leader, Patrick Neville, and Colorado Springs conservative activist, Michele Malkin, filed a lawsuit against Governor Jared Polis for the state mandate. They filed the lawsuit directly to the Colorado Supreme Court, claiming that Polis did not have the authority to issue a mandate and that doing so violated the distinction between the executive and legislative branches of the government. The Colorado Supreme Court announced on Aug. 28 their refusal to hear the case.
Despite such cases, which show the remaining political tension around mask-wearing, it’s likely that the mask order will be extended once again, after the current Oct. 12 expiration date. The Colorado state government webpage about mask guidance states that the order “may be extended if necessary,” and as cases continue to grow, this possibility remains likely.