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All Coloradans should wear non-medical masks when they leave the house, Gov. Jared Polis says

Medical N95 masks should still be reserved for health care workers, Polis said

Coloradans who leave their homes to go grocery shopping or take a walk around their neighborhood should now wear non-medical cloth face masks while they’re in public, Gov. Jared Polis announced Friday as the state’s coronavirus deaths surpassed 100.
That declaration came ahead of President Donald Trump’s announcement that his administration is encouraging Americans to wear face masks in public, though he stressed that the recommendation is optional and said he will not be complying with it.
Medical masks should still be saved for health care workers, said Polis, who donned a mask of his own at an afternoon news conference, but everyone should be using cloth masks that cover their mouth and nose.

It’s time to make mask-wearing cool, the governor said. The state will hand out masks with the private-sector’s help, with a goal of 100,000 distributed per week, Polis said. He also encouraged Coloradans to make their own.
“Get out those old T-shirts,” Polis said. “A 1998 guacamole champion. It shrunk, you thought you’d never use it again. Get it out of your drawer and make it into a mask.”
After wearing the masks out in public, the governor said, people should put them in a heated wash, before washing their hands and face.
The recommendations for individuals to wear masks — even homemade ones — while in public stem from data showing that a large percentage of people with COVID-19 do not have symptoms but could be passing on the virus unknowingly, said Mike Van Dyke, associate professor at the Colorado School of Public Health.
The masks, he said, may help slow the spread of the coronavirus from this population. But there’s conflicting data on whether masks help protect the wearer.
“There’s like some benefit for both, but I think the larger benefit is really to prevent those droplets in those people who are asymptomatic from getting into the environment,” Van Dyke said. “We want to make sure and wash the masks and be really careful about washing our hands when we wash the outside of the masks,” he said, adding that people should continue to socially distance themselves.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said earlier this week that he had asked federal health officials to review changing the guidelines regarding who should wear masks because of how the new coronavirus is spread by individuals without symptoms.
Health officials initially warned “against the general public wearing face masks based on the best available science at the time regarding whether or not they prevent wearers from catching coronavirus,” Adams tweeted. “But we are learning more about this disease every day.”

Along with the new face mask recommendations, Polis announced extensions until the end of the month for those signing up for health insurance through the state, and extensions for businesses to file and remit sales tax.
Small businesses also will be able to get forgivable loans through, while regulations will be relaxed to allow bar and restaurant workers to be delivery drivers, Polis said. Restrictions on fostering and adopting pets will also be eased.
After weeks lamenting the state’s lackluster COVID-19 testing capabilities, Polis expressed optimism Friday that Colorado has made “enormous strides on testing.”
More than 2,000 people are now being tested daily, with the goal to increase to 3,500 per day in the next two weeks and 5,000 per day by May 1. State officials have the bandwidth to run more than 10,000 per day currently, Polis said, but they still lack the reagent supplies to make that happen.
Polis has lamented for weeks that Colorado missed a chance to more effectively combat the virus early on by testing thousands or tens of thousands of people every day starting in early March. Only recently has the state climbed above 1,000 new tests per day.
Still, “it’s not the test that saves everyone’s lives,” the governor said. “It’s the change in behavior that saves lives.”
At least 111 people have died from the novel coronavirus in Colorado so far since the outbreak began here last month, with another 823 hospitalized, Polis said. While the governor said the state is now up to 4,173 confirmed cases, top health officials said Thursday that the lacking of available tests means that number could be four to 10 times higher.
The state’s actual coronavirus death toll may be slightly higher than the current confirmed total, but it’s likely not off by a large number, Polis said Friday.
Twenty minutes before the governor was scheduled to speak, the state health department announced in a news release it had received a third allotment from of medical supplies from the National Strategic Stockpile. The supplies, which are being distributed across the state, included:
  • 122,490 N95 masks
  • 287,022 surgical masks
  • 56,160 face shields
  • 57,300 surgical gowns
  • 392,000 gloves
  • 3,636 coveralls
The shipment comes a day after Polis released a letter sent to Vice President Mike Pence in which he pleaded for more personal protection equipment and ventilators from the federal government.
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