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Boulder County health officials are supporting a call issued late Friday by Gov. Jared Polis encouraging Coloradans to wear non-medical cloth face coverings when leaving home for essential business.

County officials stress, however, that wearing a mask is not a replacement for staying home, continuing to stay six feet away from others and frequent handwashing.

COVID-19 numbers at the local level kept growing Friday. A total of 150 people have now tested positive for the coronavirus in Boulder County. Of those, 72 have recovered and 39 required hospitalization. Two people in the county have died.

Additionally, 17 staff or residents of Boulder County long-term care facilities have tested positive for COVID-19 to date.

Polis’s campaign, sparked by evidence that one in four people infected with the new coronavirus show no symptoms but nevertheless are spreading COVID-19, was to launch immediately.

“We want every Coloradan to have a non-medical mask (e.g., scarf, bandana) by April 15. Everyone should wear a mask when outside of their home for necessary activities,” said a statement from Polis’s office.

“There is new evidence that people can spread the virus while being asymptomatic. Although staying at home is still the best way to prevent the spread, when you need to leave your house for necessities or if you work in a critical, non-medical field, wearing a bandana or non-medical mask made of cloth on your face can help prevent the spread to others if you have the virus,” it added.

The governor’s office emphasized that people should not go out and buy surgical masks, which are needed by front-line health care workers and first responders.

“Because of the lack of medical-grade masks that are so crucial to protecting health care providers on the front lines, it is paramount that these types of masks not be sought after or used by the general public,” the announcement stated.

Earlier Friday, Boulder County Public Health spokesperson Chana Goussetis had said that county health officials were in touch with their regional counterparts, working toward an agreed upon guidance on masks, in the event that nothing came from the state level — as it eventually did.

“Our team has conducted significant research on the best-practices and risks of recommending that the general public without COVID-related symptoms wear masks,” Goussetis said, early Friday. “While there may not be a risk to residents who are asymptomatic wearing masks, our concern is that wearing a mask may create a false sense of security, which may lead people to be less diligent about following social distancing and hygiene requirements.”

Once the governor’s announcement on masks was released, county residents nevertheless were urged to continue to remain at least six feet from others not in their household, wash their hands after returning home, and regularly clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces.

Order marks shift in strategy

The governor’s announcement came as the conversation around masks continued to evolve at the national level.

Early in the global crisis, dating back to before it became a pandemic, public health officials were saying people who are not sick should not be wearing masks to protect themselves from COVID-19.

And as recently as mid-day Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was advising on its website that sick people should wear a face mask when around other people, and when entering a health care provider’s office — and that those not able to wear a mask should cover their coughs and sneezes.

“If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a face mask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a face mask),” the CDC site had advised. “Face masks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.”

The CDC however, mirroring the Polis announcement, late Friday also urged the voluntary use of non-medical-grade face coverings for those going outside their homes.

Polis’s office said the state’s turnabout on that point came about because “With up to 25% of people not knowing they may be carrying COVID-19, it is a good idea to have everyone wear a face covering to reduce the spread.”

As for enforcement of the new guidance, the statement from the governor’s office said “We are asking Coloradans to do this voluntarily and to help their neighbors. As a community we must work together to protect our most vulnerable community members, sustain our health care system for the months ahead and slow the spread of COVID-19. It is good for all of us.”

State gains new allotment of supplies

Also on Friday, CDPHE announced distribution of its third allotment of critical resources from the Strategic National Stockpile to help communities across Colorado respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

That third allotment, according to a news release, included 122,490 N95 masks, 287,022 surgical masks, 56,160 face shields, 57,300 surgical gowns, 392,000 gloves, and 3,636 pairs of coveralls.

The State Unified Command Group, which is part of Colorado’s Emergency Operations Center, plans to distribute the materials to every county health department and tribe throughout the state, according to need.

Factors used to determine need, according to a news release, are county population; portion of the county population that is older than 65 proportional to the state population; each county’s number of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals; and whether the county or tribe has received such supplies previously.

Statewide, CDPHE reported that through 4 p.m. Thursday, there were 4,173 confirmed Colrado COVID-19 cases across 53 counties, with 823 hospitalized and 111 dead. There have been reported outbreaks at 27 residential and non-hospital health care facilities.

Statistics at both the county and state level do not reflect the true dimension of the effects of the pandemic, due to a shortage in available testing and lag time in test results being returned.

This content was originally published here.