Polis urges everyone to wear masks in public to combat COVID-19; deaths rise to 111

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AURORA | Gov. Jared Polis on Friday urged Colorado residents to raid their t-shirt drawers and create makeshift face coverings intended to be worn in all public places for the foreseeable future.

Sporting a black face mask bearing the new state logo, Polis urged Coloradans to cover their mouths and noses with cloth whenever they leave their homes in an effort to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

“When you’re out of the home you should use a mask at all times,” Polis said.

At least 105 people had died of COVID-19 in Colorado as of Friday. This is a summary of statewide data collected daily by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The data was released Friday afternoon.

Colorado Summary

4,173 cases
823 hospitalized
53 counties
22,071 people tested
111 deaths
27 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

Tri-County Health, which governs Aurora, as well as Arapahoe, Douglas and Adams counties. Now reports its own daily summary.

As of Friday, the region has reported 1,042 positive cases, 324 in Aurora. Tri-County officials estimate that 26% of the cases also had some sort of identified pre-existing condition, such as respiratory or heart problems. Of all currently identified COVID-19 cases, 472 required hospitalization, and 107 of those were admitted to ICU, according to the daily summary.

The announcement about wearing face coverings comes a day after federal officials indicated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will call on all Americans to wear cloth masks in public.

Polis asked residents to cut up old t-shirts using scissors to make coverings that conceal at least the lower half of one’s face. Upon returning home from essential trips, the governor instructed residents to clean their masks with hot water using either a sink or washing machine.

To those immediately scoffing at the idea in online posts, Polis said that “you’re only prolonging this for the rest of us and you’re costing the lives of your fellow Coloradans.”

Polis pointed to the success of masks in South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, which have all shown lower transmission rates of the new coronavirus. Statistics showing the efficacy of the masks in Colorado should begin to come to fruition in about two weeks, Polis said.

The governor encouraged residents to be creative about making face blinds, saying residents need to adopt a “mask culture.”

“It’s about making it cool so others do it,” Polis said. ” … Let’s make lemonade out of these lemons.”

Polis did not explain whether local law enforcement agencies will pursue enforcement of the mask guidelines.

The state has partnered with ColoradoMaskProject.com and will provide approximately 100,000 cloth masks a week to Colorado’s “most vulnerable residents and workers,” officials said. Workers will distribute the masks to area food banks and other critical operations that remain open.

The state encourages users to avoid wearing medical-grade surgical masks or respirators in an effort to save such equipment for front-line medical personnel.

Colorado has received about 500,000 surgical masks and 220,000 N95 respirators from the national strategic stockpile in recent weeks, according to the governor’s office. That accounts for about 10 percent of what the state has requested.