DENVER – With Colorado experiencing its highest rate of coronavirus hospitalizations, Gov. Jared Polis extended a statewide mask mandate Monday for another 30 days and said state employees will work remotely through the end of November into December.
Colorado has had more than 1,000 coronavirus patient hospitalizations over the past three days, Polis said. He estimated that one in 105 Colorado residents is contagious.
“It doesn’t matter where you live. It doesn’t matter what the city or county says,” he said. “It is the highest prevalence in our state than it has ever been.”
The number of coronavirus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
At a news briefing, Polis said state employees who need to work on-site such as snow plow crews, correction officers and state troopers will be exempt from his order on working remotely .
Colorado’s mask mandate, first issued in July, will now extend into December. The order applies to people older than 10 and allows for several exemptions, including when eating at a restaurant and exercising alone.
The Democratic governor also encouraged Colorado residents to avoid social interactions, to physically distance and wash their hands regularly.
Polis said he was encouraged by Pfizer Inc.’s announcement that its COVID-19 vaccine may be 90% effective, based on early and incomplete test results. Such an effectiveness rate would be a “gold standard for vaccines,” he said, comparing it to the flu vaccine, which he said is usually about 60% effective.
Pfizer is on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but authorities have said it’s unlikely that any vaccine will arrive before the end of the year and that limited initial supplies will be rationed.
Polis noted his previous work with the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force and welcomed the opportunity to work with the new task force created by President-elect Joe Biden. Crafting a national strategy for distribution of a vaccine is key, he said.
“We will work closely with the private-sector partners and any part of the federal government, including the military, that wants to help with distribution to our state as soon as possible,” he said.
On Monday, Biden encouraged Americans to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus and announced an advisory board of doctors and scientists who are experts in public health, vaccines and infectious diseases and have served previous administrations.
In a statement, Polis spokesman Conor Cahill said Polis is encouraging Biden and his task force to focus on a new stimulus package to sustain the economy, develop a nation-wide strategy for manufacturing and distributing personal protective equipment and create a national testing strategy.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some – especially older adults and people with existing health problems – it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Patty Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.