DENVER (AP) – Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday issued an executive order allowing Colorado businesses to refuse service to customers who won’t wear masks to prevent transmission of coronavirus.
The issue of wearing a mask has become increasingly political, leading to violence in some instances, and the Democratic governor said his order protects individual rights and the right of businesses to deny service.
“Our businesses, the people that work there, the other patrons, they should have a right to be protected from those who refuse to take the common sense step of wearing a mask,” Polis said at a news conference announcing the order, which takes effect immediately.
The order came after a man was arrested last month in the shooting of a cook at a Waffle House in Aurora because the man was told he needed to wear a mask to be served, authorities said. The man threatened the cook on May 14 and then returned the following night, slapping the cook across the face and then shooting him, according to authorities. The cook was treated and released from a hospital.
Last month, federal health officials recommended wearing cloth masks in crowded public places to prevent transmitting the virus.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness and death. The vast majority of people recover.
Polis also announced Colorado will steer $44 million of federal stimulus money to help schools where students have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus.
Polis said state officials will use an “expansive definition” for coronavirus-related expenses that includes students from poor homes, foster children, students experiencing homelessness, those who may be homeless, students of color, English language learners or have disabilities.
Polis also said he would later release guidelines for nursing homes to allow relatives to visit residents, if the relatives test negative for coronavirus.
Patty Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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