Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, center, wears a face mask as he heads into a news conference to talk about the state's efforts to check the spread of coronavirus Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Gov. Jared Polis is once again issuing an executive order mandating Coloradans wear masks in public places, but there's a twist for areas where COVID cases are low.

“Here in Colorado we are making incredible progress with getting vaccines into arms and protecting our most vulnerable, but until everyone can get the vaccine and our COVID cases are reduced, taking precautions to prevent a surge in cases and further spread of the disease is the smart thing to do and the right thing to do and helps keep everything open,” Polis said in a statement.

The latest extension, set to go into effect on Saturday and last 30 days unless extended again, features many of the same restrictions as its predecessors. 

It requires masks to be worn in all counties in:

  • schools, including extracurricular activities;
  • child care centers and indoor children’s camps;
  • public-facing state government facilities;
  • congregate care facilities;
  • prisons and jails;
  • emergency medical and other health care settings;
  • personal services establishments like hair salons, nail salons, esthetician services and tattoo parlors;
  • and limited health care settings such as acupuncture, athletic training or audiology services.

In counties at levels blue, yellow, orange, red and purple of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Dial 3.0, masks must also be worn in all indoor public settings with 10 or more people who are either unvaccinated or of unknown vaccination status. This includes El Paso and Teller counties, which are both at level yellow. 

But counties at level green, the lowest and least restrictive category on the dial, have been released from that mandate under the latest order. Those largely rural and sparsely populated counties still have the authority implement their own mask mandates if they choose.

As of Friday, 33 of the state's 64 counties — representing more than 95% of the state's population — sit at levels other than green.

As with previous mask orders from Polis, those 10 and under are not required to wear a mask and exceptions also exist for those who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons.

Additional exceptions include: those who are hearing impaired or communicating with someone who is hearing impaired and where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication; those seated at restaurants and other food establishments, although masks must be worn once leaving the table; taking a mask off for purposes of identification; officiants at religious services, and those giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience.

The original order was issued April 17, 2020, and directed essential workers and those in government functions to wear masks. The mandate became statewide to all Coloradans over the age of 10 and for all indoor, public places on July 16, 2020.

The current order in Colorado is for 30 days, the maximum amount of time an executive order tied to public health can be in place, and will expire May 2 unless extended again by the governor.

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