DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis on Friday urged all Coloradans to begin wearing non-medical cloth face-masks whenever they leave their home for essential activities, such as grocery shopping.
The governor's recommendation will not be a requirement, but "this is not a contest to see how far against the line you can get," Polis said.
"This is a contest to find out how soon we can squash this virus in Colorado," Polis said. "And you're either helping to do that or you're not helping to do that."
Polis said wearing a cloth mask or scarf "should be part of everybody's person hygiene practices and social distancing measures."
"When you're out of the home, you should use a mask at all times," Polis said.
Polis' recommendation came shortly before President Donald Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all Americans cover their faces when in public. Trump said the recommendation is voluntary.
Polis said residents can use household cloth items, such as old t-shirts, to make masks to cover their nose and mouth. The masks don't need to be sewed, Polis said. They can simply be cut with scissors and tied together, as long as it covers the nose and mouth.
Polis emphasized several reasons for wearing the masks, including the fact that many people who have coronavirus are asymptomatic, meaning they can spread the virus without knowing they have it. Polis pointed Coloradans to the Colorado Mask Project website, which offers patterns and designs for do-it-yourself masks.
Residents wearing homemade or non-medical cloth masks will also help lessen the burden on healthcare workers, who are suffering a shortage of crucial personal protective equipment. Some healthcare workers in Denver have already begun using cloth masks, which help filter airborne particles but not as much as medical-grade masks, such as N95 respirators.
Still, wearing a mask to cover the nose and mouth — even if it's a homemade cloth mask — will help reduce Coloradans' exposure to the coronavirus, which can be spread through droplets in the air, Polis said.
State data has showed that the number of coronavirus cases in Colorado is doubling every five days — an improvement over recent doubling rates of every two days. But Polis has urged Coloradans to continue social distancing and said the effects of last week's statewide stay-at-home data will hopefully reflect in the case data in the next days. The impact of widespread mask usage could be seen in the data in 10-12 days, Polis said.