DENVER — Before Gov. Jared Polis ever issued a statewide mask mandate, his point was made clear: "Wear a damn mask!" he told Coloradans in a July news conference, as COVID-19 cases were on the rise.
Three months later — and nearly as long into the mask mandate — Polis' press conference Friday was a bit of déjà vu.
"Wear a damn mask," Polis said, raising his voice when asked about some Coloradans' frustrations with the mandate.
Polis said the mask mandate will be extended for at least another month when it expires Monday.
Still, he said residents shouldn't need a mandate to wear a mask.
"Don't wait for Gov. Polis to tell you to wear a mask," Polis said. "Wear one because you love yourself, your family and your community."
While Colorado's case numbers have been rising in recent days — with new daily counts in the 800s on Thursday and Friday — Polis said the state's mask mandate has separated it from nearby hotspots in the Dakotas, and, earlier in the year, higher case numbers in Texas and Utah.
"It's just common sense and it's smart," Polis said. "It shouldn't be controversial. Think of it this way: If it was a foot infection you could reduce the likelihood of, simply by wearing shoes, you just wear the darn shoes ... If athlete's foot breaks out at your gym, you're probably wearing slippers and sandals for a week or two, so you don't get it. This is longer, and this is higher stakes. This ain't athlete's foot."
Part of those higher stakes, Polis said, is maintaining hospital capacity, and the governor presented data Friday on which age groups are being hospitalized the most.
While minority and older populations have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, Polis said more white people and younger people are being hospitalized in Colorado in recent weeks.
The largest percentage of hospitalizations still trends older, with 20.1% of hospitalizations in the last 30 days coming from the 60-69 age group and 16.5% from the 50-59 age group.
Here was the full breakdown presented by Polis:
"One of the misperceptions is that everyone thinks it's someone else [who will be impacted by the virus]," Polis said. "Guess what, folks? It's actually all of us."
The latest hospital data Thursday showed 356 hospital beds in use by confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients – 13 fewer than Wednesday with 31 patients discharged or transferred from hospitals over the past 24 hours and 87% of state hospitals reporting.
Polis said the trend in hospitalizations and case counts has him as worried as he was in July, when COVID-19 spread increased in Colorado.
Polis on Friday also announced a re-allocation of federal CARES funding, including $6 million toward the Energize Colorado Gap Fund.