Does Colorado need another mask mandate?

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DENVER (KDVR) — At this stage in the pandemic, which is more important: masking up or a shot in the arm?

It’s a question that officials are attempting to answer. The state is seeing a dramatic uptick in cases and hospitalizations, prompting Gov. Jared Polis to sign an executive order making every Coloradan eligible for a booster shot.

Are mask mandates the way to go?

“I think when we use the term mandate, it kind of gets into all of [this] public policy issue,” said Dr. Scott Joy, chief medical officer of HealthONE Physician Services Group. He said there’s a vast difference between semantics and science.

“We talk about taking a blood pressure medicine to reduce a heart attack. We talked about taking an antibiotic to deal with an infection. A mask is just another opportunity to prevent illness,” he said.

During a COVID-19 press briefing on Friday, Polis responded to a question on whether a return to mask mandates is the way to go if masks have proven to slow the spread.

“It’s easy to say wearing a mask will protect you, because absolutely it delays your chances of getting COVID at any given point in time,” he said, adding: “When they do get COVID, it’ll be just as deadly as if they weren’t wearing a mask. Whereas if they get vaccinated, of course, they have a very, very high level of protection if they do get COVID.”

Joy said we’re in a different stage of this pandemic, but he still prescribes the same preventative precautions we’ve gotten used to.

“I think this is a real opportunity for us to really buckle up and follow what we’ve referred to ever since the beginning of the pandemic of the three Ws: So wash your hands, wear your mask and watch your distance. I think the game-changer in all of this is obviously the vaccination we have against COVID. So that’s a clear opportunity to kind of really reduce the amount of virus that is spreading in the community.”

Colorado, New Mexico, have similar case rates — despite mask mandate

Meanwhile, Polis cast a comparison to the COVID numbers in New Mexico, a state with a mask mandate.

Here’s what the numbers say. In New Mexico, a state with a mask mandate, they have a 7-day average of 916 new cases per day. Here in Denver, that 7-day average is about 1,039.

It looks like a major difference until you compare the population per capita.

The 7-day case rate for New Mexico is 44 cases per 100,000 people, and Colorado’s is just over that at 50 cases. The governor provided some context as to why our numbers are so similar despite the fact we don’t have a mask mandate and New Mexico does.

Polis provided this possible explanation:

“One hypothesis is that those who are unvaccinated are the least likely to follow a mask order. And obviously, if we’re trying to get them to do one thing, it would be to get vaccinated. That’s more important for them and their health and for society than wearing a mask.”

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