Coronavirus

Top Five Polis Excuses for Not Issuing a Statewide COVID Mask Order

A portrait of a masked Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
A portrait of a masked Colorado Governor Jared Polis. colorado.gov via 9News
At a November 23 press conference about COVID-19, Governor Jared Polis found himself responding to questions about a new mask mandate that will be imposed in most of metro Denver today — and why he hasn't imposed a similar edict statewide, given that the overwhelming majority of Colorado counties are experiencing severe viral spread.

Polis should be accustomed to answering such questions, since he's faced similar queries at every press conference for weeks. But rather than sticking to a consistent theme, he's either tried to dodge the topic entirely or thrown out a wide variety of explanations in the hope that people would be placated — which hasn't happened so far.

Here are the five most recent excuses Polis has given for not mandating indoor masking in public settings across Colorado.

5. People have the power
October 21 press conference


"Most Coloradans have done the right thing" by getting vaccinated Polis said. The approximately 25 percent of residents who've resisted doing so have "a lot to worry about," he stressed. "The vast majority of people hospitalized are among the smaller group who are unvaccinated. So get vaccinated, and get protected." For those who don't want to, he urged: "Please have the decency to wear a mask around others and avoid large groups."

4. It's our turn
November 2 press conference

"If you look at the prevalence of the virus, this is our region: New Mexico, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas. This slice of the country." Such spikes have happened in other sections of the U.S., such as the southeast, he said, and then they've ebbed again. Until then, unvaccinated people are at higher risk. "Don't think you'll dodge a bullet just because you're worn a mask if you're unvaccinated," Polis warned. "You will probably become infected." Moreover, "people will die in the endemic state, just as people die of the flu, measles and other conditions that we've been able to mitigate."

3. The numbers game
November 12 press conference


"It's a little hard to see through the static" when it comes to determining the effectiveness of statewide mask orders, Polis allowed. For instance, "New Mexico has had a mask-wearing requirement, really, for the past couple of months statewide, and the state seems to be in about the same place we are in regard to infection rates. ... It's easy to say wearing a mask will protect you, but harder to figure out what a mask order does in different areas and what impact that might have."

4. Shots, shots, shots
November 19 press conference

In touting the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines, Polis said, "We certainly want to expand our love for one another" by wearing masks in the presence of others. However, he went on, "people who are unvaccinated need to know infections can occur even if there is a lot of mask-wearing. We want everybody to be protected, and the best and simplest way to do that is to get vaccinated."

5. Different strokes for different folks
November 23 press conference

"We've had different local approaches to reducing the spread of the virus in different parts of the state," Polis pointed out. "Boulder has had a mask mandate for several months, and some counties are really doubling down on improving vaccination rates and boosters. I'm excited to work with every county across the state, recognizing that we're a very diverse state.... They all have to function within the social license of the area that they represent."

Polis insisted that "there's no right or wrong answer" to how various counties have chosen to approach safety protocols, stressing that "it's in poor taste to attack county health officials in Douglas County" for not imposing a mask mandate, but just as problematic "to go after Jefferson County and Denver" for doing so. In his view, the governor said, county health departments and local governments "are doing the best job they can in protecting everyone."

And the excuses go on...like the spread of COVID-19.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts