John Bechtold puts his face covering on as he passes his storefront sign that lists COVID-19 protective covering required to enter in his retail shop, Friday, May 14, 2021, in Pittsburgh's South Side neighborhood. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Gov. Jared Polis did a grave disservice Friday to the fight against the pandemic and those most exhausted by the endless waves of COVID-19 in the state, healthcare and frontline workers.

“The emergency is over,” Polis told Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner during a monthly radio interview, explaining why, as deaths continue to mount and hospitals overflow, he will not issue mask or vaccine mandates.

To be accurate, the pandemic emergency in Colorado and across the nation is not over. It is far from over.

As Polis spoke, hospitals across the state struggle with a flood of critically ill COVID-19 patients, many of whom will die. On Friday, there were 1,329 patients in hospitals across the state struggling with COVID-19.

Hospitals in Colorado struggle against health worker burnout and a shortage of beds for patients suffering from other maladies.

Polis has stumbled on issuing mask mandates since the pandemic began. Last year, he wavered over a statewide mask mandate weeks after other states saw the scientific wisdom and need for them to curb the rate of infection and “flatten the curve,” a national mantra.

The meme was used to help Americans understand that the spread of the coronavirus was unstoppable, but distancing, closures and masks could effectively slow the rate of infection, preventing hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with sick and dying patients — like they are becoming now.

When push-back came after Polis enforced a statewide mask mandate — mostly from Republican officials ignoring sound science and facts or outright pushing fraudulent claims to undermine the mask mandate — Polis stood his ground, pointing to irrefutable data about masks slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

What happened?

Since about the time school started in August — and it became apparent that no amount of cajoling, bribery or threats would get a sizable number of Colorado residents to roll up their sleeves for a shot that could relatively easily end the worst of the pandemic — Polis steadfastly declined, then refused to issue a statewide mask mandate, even as cases soared and hospitals became overwhelmed.

For a governor as pragmatic as Polis, the move has been baffling.

It is indisputable that mask mandates reduce the amount of airborne virus shared among people inside stores, restaurants, bathrooms and more.

Less virus means fewer infections. Fewer infections means fewer sickened people. Fewer sickened people means fewer people hospitalized, placed on ventilators and doomed to struggle for breath as they die.

The most baffling part of this is how simple, cheap, effective and unimposing wearing a mask in public is.

Why fight something this innocuous and effective? The response from Polis was alarming.

“Public health [officials] don’t get to tell people what to wear; that’s just not their job,” Polis told Warner as the radio host pressed Polis for details about his mask mandate objection.

Those are the same inflammatory and politicized talking points lobbed regularly from propaganda sources like Fox News, GOP Congressperson Lauren Boebert and the social-media circus of anti-science, disinformation felons.

Masks are not attire. They are medical devices proven to slow the spread of a pandemic that has ended the lives of more than 800,000 Americans and sickened millions more.

Polis’ joining the chorus of Republican obfuscators and conspiracy theorists undermines officials across the state, including in Arapahoe, Adams, Denver, Jefferson and Boulder counties. Officials there stepped around Polis and mustered the temerity to impose a mask mandate, because it’s desperately needed.

Polis’ office later clarified, explaining that Polis referred only to state, not local officials. Regardless which level of government requires masks in a pandemic, it has nothing to do with fashion or freedom.

We absolutely agree with Polis that the short-term and long-term key to mitigating and, possibly, ending the coronavirus pandemic, lies in mass vaccination.

But almost a year after vaccines have been introduced, and the state has made every effort possible to provide and persuade Colorado residents to take the shot, herds of people, either too stubborn or befuddled, have refused and will continue.

We also agree with Polis that those refusing vaccination are doomed to infection and seriously prone to becoming ill, possibly for the rest of their lives and even dying from COVID-19, “and it’s their own darn fault.”

But frustration with anti-vaxxers can’t overshadow the reality that thousands of Colorado residents, including some who have been vaccinated, continue to become infected, primarily because they are exposed in public places by other infected people, not wearing masks.

Polis needs to take back the Republican, anti-vaxxer allegation that mask mandates are an affront to personal choice and fashion vogue. He needs to walk back his insistence that the medical emergency and urgency to contain the spread of the coronavirus has ended here, or anywhere.

He needs to check with his own experts, who most likely are not advising him to say the emergency is over and mask mandates aren’t the job of health officials.

Polis needs to issue a statewide mask mandate to reduce disease, save lives and defuse the political charge across the state for something that has nothing to do with politics.

11 replies on “EDITORIAL: No, Gov. Polis, the pandemic emergency is not over, and the need for a mask mandate persists”

  1. “For a governor as pragmatic as Polis, the move has been baffling.”

    No Dave, that pragmatism is *exactly* why he’s not doing it. You guys might share the same far-left politics, but Polis is not an idiot nor an ideologue. He knows that any mask mandate is going to be practically unenforceable outside the Denver metro area, the ski resorts, and a few isolated pockets throughout the state. Everywhere else will laugh and continue going about their business.

    The governor is not going to pass a mandate just to make neurotic neoyuppies and press figures feel like “someone’s doing something,” when the people you’re complaining about will just ignore it anyway.

  2. Perry, why do you refuse to acknowledge the mental and physical child abuse that masking is to children in school?

    You and others throwing on a mask before you saunter in King Soopers for a bottle of Siraca is a lot different than forcing children to wear their masks all day, inhaling filth, garbling teacher instruction, hiding kinesic cues, and hindering personal expression.

    This, for the population that’s unlikely to die and least likely to suffer seriously from the virus.

    1. Thank you so much for your well put response. I have been a math teacher for 14 years. never in my life has it been so obvious that the left hates teachers and considers us expendable.

      Having to enforce tyranny, having to sanitize every desk in between classes, so I no longer have time to even use a restroom between classes, having to repeat instructions because students cannot hear me through a mask, having to address online students while I also have in person students ….and having online parents seriously wonder why I cannot give online students attention when I am dealing with an in-person discipline issue in the class. Only someone who hates teachers or someone privileged with a total “let them eat cake” attitude would still be pushing for mask mandates. And yes, I actually did allow students to take masks off in class, I am not getting paid enough to go crazy over the unenforceable.

      And I did write Polis’s office over a year ago about the fact that I was working some days without a chance to use a bathroom, or leaving kids unsupervised to use the bathroom, and I never got any response.

      1. School Teacher here as well. Elementary. I have seen students cry for forgetting their mask thinking they will “kill somebody”. We all know 40% of the kids arent wearing their masks properly (bad fit, not over nose, saliva soaked)… Exhaling CO2 is RIDDING our body of waste, yet we make kids breathe it back in. I dont even know surgeons wear their masks for this long of a period every day. Sickening

  3. Perry, you hammer Governor Polis because of his perception of masking policy reality.
    The reality in the Governor’s world, something you can’t seem to grasp is his reality could care less about how you perceive your world’s reality. Rather you want to believe it or not, he supports and has made it well known, local health officials will take control, it’s totally their decisions. And that logic is so simple to understand, something you continue to and refuse to accept. Polis is an expert to personify the ability to move this political hot potato into the bureaucratic wastelands.  The reality of the election, and the politics of the Covid management will be raw meat, no doubt. It’s election time right around the corner, and this is how he does it. And all so neatly done with clean hands.         

  4. Wow. Idiocracy! Maybe this woke Governor has come to his senses. Now if he could convince ail resorts to stop the wokeness. Enough said.

  5. So, basically the Governor isn’t going to require everyone to require everyone to wear a mask in close proximity to anyone else. If businesses choose to require them they can or if someone decides to wear one, they can. If employers want to require everyone wear a mask, they should be good with losing talented people. All of this uproar over Polis not telling everyone to mask up should be driven by the medicine only. We must be too stupid to make a decision that may or may not make a difference but we’re still allowed to. This is about control because scared people are easier to control and I want to thank the Sentinel for doing their part in spreading the fear. Here we are a couple of years or so into a pandemic and there still isn’t a cure and vaccinated, unvaccinated, masked, or unmasked can go all carry and share Covid. Being nice and accepting of masked and unmasked might be the best course to take. Has anyone else noticed more people with beautiful eyes?????

  6. US Supreme Court upholding state vaccine mandates for healthcare workers and we need this in Colorado (see NY & Maine cases where vaccine mandates just approved), and mask mandates for all. Find some courage Gov. Polis, and do it. The sane science-believing part of CO population will re-elect you. No matter what you do, the conservatives refusing to follow science, facts, data, community health guidelines: they never will vote for you anyway.

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