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Mask mandate to be renewed amid concern over coronavirus hospitalizations

The hospitalization rate continues to be a concern among state and local officials when it comes to COVID-19.

DENVER — With more than 250 people across Colorado currently in the hospital being treated for COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) announced Friday that he'll once again extend the mask mandate, saying it's the most effective tool against the novel coronavirus. 

"We have been very alarmed by recent trends, the mask wearing will absolutely have to continue,"  Polis said during an update from the Governor's Residence. "It's one of the most important tools we have. It's one of the things that separates Colorado from most of our neighboring states that are currently hotspots."

The statewide mandate was set to expire Oct. 12 and will likely be extended for an additional 30 days as has been done in the past.

Polis said Colorado's rate of mask wearing is much higher than places like the Dakotas and Wisconsin, which had to activate its field hospital to make sure they can meet capacity needs.

"They have a lower mask wearing rate than the rest of the nation, around the 45% range," Polis said. "I don't have the most recent numbers from Colorado, but last I saw we were in the 80s."

The governor held a briefing Friday as Colorado's seven-day positivity rate and the number of hospitalizations continue to creep up.

Friday, Polis detailed just who is in the hospital, and while about a quarter are between 60 and 69, he noted that just over 6% of those currently in the hospital are in their 20s.

"This can take people in their prime and make them sick and infirm and hospitalized; most will get better thanks to the treatment that exists and some will not," he said. "As a society, we need to make sure those treatments are there for those who need it."

The virus is also more spread out across the state than it was at the beginning of the pandemic, when most of the cases were in metro areas. Now, according to the data, about 40% of those currently hospitalized are outside large cities.

Earlier this week, the governor expressed concern over what could happen if the trend isn't reversed before the holiday season, when less social distancing is expected.

On Thursday, 256 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Colorado, which was the highest number since late July, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

"I think the biggest reason is what we're all experiencing, which is coronavirus fatigue," Polis said. "But just because we're tired of the virus doesn't mean the virus is tired of us. It's still here." 

The seven-day positivity rate on Thursday was 3.66%. On Tuesday, the reproductive number for the virus was at 1.25, which Polis said was not sustainable.

"You can be at 1.25 for a few weeks, but it is exponential," he said in his briefing on Tuesday. "You cannot be at the number for months at a time or you overwhelm your hospitals. Just like we did in July, we need a gut check."

RELATED: 'We need a gut check': Polis, health officials express concern with current COVID-19 trend

According to the state's COVID-19 dial, no counties are at Safer Level 3, which would come with additional restrictions on businesses, houses of worship and community gatherings.

However, the Tri-County Health Department warned on Thursday that Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties are at risk of moving into that more restrictive level.

The governor also announced Friday the reallocation of federal CARES ACT funding to support small businesses and to provide additional funds for rental or housing assistance to food banks.

RELATED: Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas counties warned about rising COVID-19 activity

RELATED: Colorado coronavirus latest numbers, Oct. 9

RELATED: Active COVID-19 outbreaks at Colorado grocery stores, schools, restaurants

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