During a COVID-19 press conference several weeks ago, Governor Jared Polis expressed his support for businesses putting up signs reading, "No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service." Now, the ability to make such a declaration is officially backed by the state as the result of a new executive order Polis announced at a meeting with the media today, June 4.
"Businesses should have a right to be protected from those who refuse to take the common-sense step to wear a mask," he said, by denying "service to those who might put their employees and customers at health risk."
At the outset of his talk, Polis praised "those who are making their voices heard" at ongoing protests in downtown Denver, and said he was "proud to point out that the past few nights have been much more peaceful" than those that followed last weekend's rallies.
"I see optimism and hope" among participants in the demonstrations, he added, as well as "a reawakening of our national conscience that was long overdue." And he quoted George Floyd's young daughter, who asserted in a viral video that "Daddy changed the world."
Then Polis provided an update about the latest COVID-19 statistics from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: 1,254 total fatalities in which the virus was listed as the cause, out of 1,512 deaths of people who'd tested positive for the infection; and 27,354 positive cases. Seven of the past fourteen days have indicated a downward trend in cases, he pointed out, with hospitalizations dipping for eleven days over the past two weeks. Still, Polis said he remains concerned that there may be a spike as a result of the large gatherings downtown, and urged protesters to socially distance whenever possible and always use facial coverings.
Speaking of which, he screened a new public-service announcement about the importance of mask-wearing, which he called "our ticket to opening our economy sooner."
As for those who aren't wearing masks, Polis noted that "studies show men are particularly resistant" to their use, in part because they "think it makes them look weak." In his view, though, real weakness is prolonging the COVID-19 crisis because of a fear that they'll look "uncool."
At that point, Polis announced the executive order about the right of businesses to refuse service to those who are mask-free. He believed that such operations already had this ability, but that "it was a gray area" that was "causing a negative reaction." The new order will provide clarity on this issue, he said.
After discussing $44 million in new funding designated to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on high-need students from preschool through higher education, and encouraging those experiencing behavioral health issues to reach out for assistance to Colorado Crisis Services and other agencies, Polis previewed an initiative that's on the way: the Lifeline Pass, which will allow people who test negative for the virus a 48-hour window to visit loved ones at nursing homes and congregate-care facilities. That approach, he suggests, will balance the emotional needs of isolated seniors with the desire to keep them safe.
In the subsequent question-and-answer session with journalists, Polis stressed his support for efforts to reform law enforcement oversight, speaking in support of a community-policing methodology. In addition, he criticized the federal government for a lack of transparency when it comes to providing personal protective equipment and the like, and made it clear that he would not be following Mayor Michael Hancock's lead and appearing personally at any George Floyd protests.
However, he said he would be happy to meet with leaders of the movement, as long as the group was smaller than ten.