By Pam Zubeck

Governor Jared Polis announced he’s imposing a mandatory mask or face covering law starting at midnight July 16 for everyone age 10 and older when in indoor public places. Those who have medical conditions that prevent wearing a mask are exempt.

By refusing to wear a mask in a place where other people gather, violators will be subject to citation under the state’s trespassing order.

Polis was joined in a news conference today by Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, both of whom support the statewide mandate. Aurora and Denver both already had mask ordinances in place in part or all jurisdictions, but the statewide measure takes the guesswork out of whether to wear a mask in this or that county or city, they said.

Polis noted that many giant corporations already have imposed mask rules for customers and employees, including Walmart, Costco, Starbucks and Best Buy.

“This will also help those responsible companies have better enforcement so their employees have a reasonable expectation of safety,” Polis said.

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He cited studies that show mask mandates increase mask-wearing.

But Polis said wearing a mask doesn’t mean all the other rules are out the window. People still should stay home when they can, especially those in risk groups, maintain social distancing, wash their hands and stay home if they feel sick.

“We have a choice in Colorado,” he said, “either more mask-wearing or more damage to our economy and loss of life. Wearing a mask is not a political statement. I don’t know how it became a game of political football. The virus doesn’t care what political party you’re in. The virus is the virus and it is a threat to every single one of us.”

Mayor Hancock said Denver’s mask rule, imposed a couple of months ago, drew good reviews from businesses and residents alike and gave business the “tool” they need to assurance compliance of customers.

“I believe [the state mask law] is the least invasive public health option to stem the spread of COVID-19 virus,” Coffman said. “The alternative is to shut down businesses and force schools to remain closed.”

It was only a week ago that Polis shied from a mask law, but today said he doesn’t want to see Colorado deteriorate like has been seen in Texas, Arizona, Florida and parts of California. It also gives “clarity of message” to make the entire state under the same edict. Moreover, it gives law enforcement clear guidance to enforce it under the state’s trespass law.

“Bipartisan leadership of the state wants you to take this more seriously and that’s why we’re here today,” Polis said.

Violators may be subject to civil or criminal penalties.

El Paso County commissioners and the Colorado Springs City Council earlier this week stopped short of adopting a mask law.

Despite the pleas of Coffman, Hancock and Polis to not politicize mask wearing, which has been shown scientifically to curtail the virus’ spread, Colorado House District 3 Republican candidate Lauren Boebert jumped to complain within minutes of the news conference ending.

In a news release, she accused Polis of “attacking our personal liberties while dictating mandates from the top down.”

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