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Colorado’s Polis: Virus ‘emergency is over’

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Public health officials 'don't get to tell people what to wear,' governor says. But California disagrees.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis says he has stopped short of mandating masks because the COVID-19 "emergency is over." But that isn't the case in California, which reinstated indoor mask mandates Dec. 13 because of a winter spike in infections.

Polis told Colorado Public Radio on Dec. 10 that vaccines have changed the coronavirus landscae, rendering masks useful but not required.

"That's the kinda thing I didn't hesitate to do in the emergency," he told the outlet "The emergency is over. You know, public health [officials] don’t get to tell people what to wear; that's just not their job. Public health [officials] would say to always wear a mask because it decreases flu and decreases [other airborne illnesses]. But that's not something that you require; you don't tell people what to wear. You don't tell people to wear a jacket when they go out in winter and force them to [wear it]. If they get frostbite, it's their own darn fault. If you haven't been vaccinated, that's your choice. I respect that. But it's your fault when you're in the hospital with COVID."

In a statement after the interview, Polis clarified that he supports local mask mandates as infection levels warrant.

However, California is reinstating an indoor mask mandate for everyone regardless of vaccination status through Jan. 15.

"As we look at the evidence that masks do make a difference, even a 10% increase in indoor masking can reduce case transmission significantly," said State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.

The actions come as Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming have joined more than a dozen other states in filing legal challenges against the federal government's mandate that federal contractors and workers for businesses with more than 100 employees be vaccinated by Jan. 4. Several courts have so far sided with the plaintiffs against the mandates.

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