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Gov. Jared Polis briefs the press and the public on his decision to issue a statewide mask mandate on July 16, 2020.

At his regular coronavirus update to the press, Gov. Jared Polis talked about his impressions of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who was laid to rest Thursday, sports and a generous donation from Swedish furniture store IKEA to the state's COVID-19 relief fund.

Polis said serving alongside Lewis, who died July 17 from pancreatic cancer, was "a high point of my life" and an enormous honor.

Lewis, a civil rights pioneer who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was the conscience of the nation, Polis added. 

Polis met Lewis while serving his first term in Congress. "It was intimidating to be around such a legend... . When John spoke, everybody listens." The best way to honor Lewis' legacy is to continue to fight for the things he stood for, the governor added: equality, justice, human rights and voting rights.

Polis also noted the passing of former Godfather's Pizza CEO and former 2012 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who died Thursday from complications due to COVID-19. News reports said Cain contracted the virus after attending President Trump's rally in Tulsa on June 20; where he was pictured without a mask, and the rally has since been blamed for a spike in cases.

Polis said he met Cain once, at a debate in Loveland between Polis and then-Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud for the 2nd Congressional District seat Polis won. "I know he was an inspirational hero to the business sector and conservative Coloradans," Polis said, in expressing his condolences.

The governor also announced that the Attorney General had issued a cease-and-desist order against Live Entertainment, the company that held the bull-riding/concert in Weld County on Sunday, and as first reported by Colorado Politics.

Despite that, the governor said "we can't let the virus hold us back from living our lives ... or cowering in our homes." We can't let the virus win by destroying our way of life."

The Swedish furniture company IKEA, which has one store in Centennial, made a $1 million donation to the state's COVID-19 relief fund, the governor announced, one of the largest donations to date. The fund has now collected more than $22 million.

He also addressed the lawsuit filed by the Tavern League of Denver, in which a Denver District Court judge dismissed a request for a temporary restraining order against the state shortly after the governor's press conference.

"I agree it's completely outrageous that bars have to close at 10 p.m." he said. But no one in this country has yet to figure out how to have an active night life in a pandemic, and he doubled down on the social distancing problems caused when people over-imbibe in alcohol.

Sports teams, such as the Rockies and the Broncos, are gearing up for competition, but for now without fans in the bleachers. Polis said the problem isn't social distancing requirements in the stands. "It's easy to imagine" how fans can socially distance there, but the problem is what to do about social distancing in bathrooms, at concession stands and at exits and entrances. He said he's discussing those issues with sports team owners.

The Polis administration also announced Thursday it would provide medical-grade masks to private school teachers, in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Denver. The state will send 2,000 masks per week to the diocese' 48 schools. Public charter and private schools can also obtain masks from district headquarters or other designated locations, according to a statement from Polis' office Thursday.

“Keeping teachers, students and school staff as safe as possible as kids head back to school is our top priority...We know this school year is not going to look like one we’ve ever seen before, and I applaud the incredible work of our teachers, administrators, and parents for their dedication to ensuring Colorado students receive the education they deserve,” Polis said in the statement.

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