Colorado's Dem Gov. Jared Polis Says Masks No Longer Needed as New York Enacts Mandate

Colorado's Democratic Governor Jared Polis has said that a state face mask mandate is no longer necessary at this stage in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, New York state has just enacted its own mask mandate, about a week after the COVID-19 Omicron variant emerged in the state.

When asked why the state has not re-issued a mask mandate for all residents, Polis told Colorado Public Radio (CPR), "There was a time when there was no vaccine, and masks were all we had and we needed to wear them. The truth is we now have highly effective vaccines that work far better than masks ... We see [the availability of vaccines] as the end of the medical emergency."

Polis said that a new statewide mask mandate isn't necessary, even though researchers think that the newly emergent Omicron variant may be more contagious than previous variants of COVID-19. He said that evidence suggests that the currently available vaccines "hold up well" against the Omicron variants.

Jared Polis Colorado masks mandates New York
Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis has said that a state face mask mandate is no longer necessary at this stage in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, New York state has just enacted its own mask mandate, about a week after the Omicron variant emerged in the state. In this photo, Polis speaks at an Election Night rally on November 6, 2018, in Denver. Rick T. Wilking/Getty

The CPR interviewer then asked him why he wouldn't consider issuing a mask mandate to reduce the rate of new infections, especially as COVID-19 patients fill hospital wards across the state.

"I didn't hesitate to [issue a statewide mask mandate] in the emergency. The emergency is over," Polis replied. "You know, [state] public health [officials] don't get to tell people what to wear; that's just not their job."

Polis' office did say, however, that the governor "believes that local leaders can and should put disease reduction protocols in place based off their disease levels and community support for those policies."

While Colorado no longer has a statewide mask mandate for all residents, the state currently requires unvaccinated and not fully vaccinated people to wear masks in medical facilities, long-term residential care facilities, homeless shelters, prisons and jails.

Meanwhile, New York state's Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Friday that it will require masks in all indoor public places unless the places require proof of vaccination, the Associated Press reported.

The new mandate will last from December 13 to January 15, 2022. After that, the state will decide whether to end or extend the mandate.

Hochul said her decision was based on a recent increase in cases and hospitalizations.

"We're entering a time of uncertainty and we could either plateau here or our cases could get out of control," Hochul said.

Although New York state experienced a dip in new cases mid-summer, numbers began rising from July 3 onward, and have increased again following a small dip in late October. As of December 10, the state has reported an average of 9,673 cases each day for the last week.

Colorado's case numbers also dipped in mid-summer, and have continually risen since early July. Though the numbers dipped slightly in late November, the state has reported an average of 2,300 cases each day for the last week.