In order to avoid going back to the kinds of restrictions in place earlier this year, Colorado residents need to be more vigilant about preventing the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday, after three weeks of rising numbers of new coronavirus cases in the state.

“We need to do better with coronavirus” Polis said. “The bad news is we’ve had some slippage, and the rates are going up here.”

Coloradans need to avoid gatherings, stay home a little more and, Polis repeatedly stressed, wear masks. People should not be waiting for their governor to tell them to wear a mask, because it’s settled science, he said.

“If I haven’t been clear,” Polis said, “wear a damn mask.”

The seven-day average of new daily coronavirus cases reached 300 this week, a new high point since late May and early June.

Polis said the “R-naught” value (R0), which represents the average number of people that people with the virus are infecting, is now around 1.2 or 1.3.

The University of Colorado team of researchers who have counseled Polis during the pandemic reported that in late May and early June, the R0 value was near 0.9. The goal, Polis said, is to get Colorado back below an R0 value of 1.

Polis said he won’t rule out future policy decisions, but described a statewide mandate for people to wear masks as unmanageable from a compliance perspective: “We wouldn’t be able to enforce it,” Polis said. State troopers, who could potentially enforce a statewide mask requirement, mostly patrol the highways, so, “for a mask ordinance to work it has to have local buy in...Local policymakers and police have to cooperate to make mask ordinances work

And Polis said mask ordinances only work if enforcement comes with it.

“Fines at the municipal level, if they’re enforced, can be effective, particularly for out-of-staters,” Polis said.

Between 50,000 and 100,000 Texans and Arizonans visited Colorado over the July 4 weekend, he added, two states with surging coronavirus caseloads.

“I think they should be cited and given tickets if they’re violating mask ordinances in any given area, because they have to learn Colorado is serious about it.”

In other coronavirus developments: 

Polis highlighted the positive effects of the Emergency Child Care Collaborative, a state program aimed at providing free child care for medical workers in Colorado. A report on the program cited more than 2,000 children from 1,500 Colorado families were supported by the program.

And Polis flagged for local businesses the $129 billion dollars still available through the Paycheck Protection Program funds, urging small business owners, even those with only one employee, to go to to apply for the forgivable loans.

“Go apply,” he said. “Talk to your bank.”

Polis praised legislation passed by state lawmakers and that he signed into law, which makes telemedicine more accessible, even after the pandemic ends.

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