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Jefferson County enacts mandatory mask order as COVID-19 cases rise

Jefferson County on Tuesday joined a growing number of Colorado municipalities to enact a mask requirement for anyone in public settings to combat the spread of COVID-19.

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Under the order, which goes into effect 5 p.m. Tuesday and expires 6 a.m. July 22 if not extended, residents and visitors who are outside their homes “must wear a mask or cloth face covering when in public settings when unable to maintain six-foot social distancing,” county health officials said in a news release.

People will not be required to wear masks at home or in a car with members of their household. And businesses will be required to post signs saying people must wear facial coverings when inside, according to the county’s order.

The Jefferson County Board of Health will meet next Tuesday to decide on whether to amend or extend the order.

The mandate comes as Jefferson County, along with much of the rest of the state, has seen increasing coronavirus cases in recent weeks. The week of July 5, the county recorded 230 new cases, a number three times higher than the week of June 14, health officials said in the news release. The increasing cases also have included higher hospitalization numbers across the metro area.

“As cases have started to increase sharply across the Denver metro area and in Jefferson County, we are looking at the tools we have to prevent the surges that are happening in other parts of our country, including bordering states, from happening here,” said Dr. Mark B. Johnson, executive director of Jefferson County Public Health. “While we have always strongly encouraged our residents to wear face coverings, we are joining others in the Denver metro area to take it a step further and make them mandatory.”

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Gov. Jared Polis has refrained from instituting a statewide mask mandate, encouraging local jurisdictions to decide for themselves.

More than 25 counties and municipalities in Colorado have face-covering ordinances, and officials estimate 70% of Coloradans are wearing them, even as the governor says that number is still too low.

Residents in Denver, Boulder and much of the metro area are required to wear masks in public settings.

Research suggests masks can reduce transmission of COVID-19, especially from people who are contagious but do not have symptoms.

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