(The Center Square) -- Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced on Friday that fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear face masks in public.
The announcement comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidance that eased mask-wearing for fully vaccinated people on Thursday. Several states, including Pennsylvania, Vermont and Nebraska, have already updated their state orders to be in line with the new CDC guidance.
Colorado's state health department reports that 2.2 million Coloradans are fully vaccinated. In all, more than 1,400 providers across the state have administered 5 million shots of the three available vaccines.
Polis suggested Friday during a news conference that people who are unvaccinated should continue wearing masks until they receive an inoculation.
"This has been a long, hard year-and-a-half for Coloradans. And while it ain't over yet, we're almost there," Polis said.
Polis first instituted the state's mask mandate in July 2020 as Colorado's 7-day case average stood at 200 per-100,000 residents. By November, the 7-day average skyrocketed to over 4,000 cases.
On Friday, he said the decision was made after research showed masks are 50% effective at stopping the transmission of the disease. He also described masks as a "poor man's vaccine" and urged Coloradans to get vaccinated.
"The vaccines we have are 95% effective. Some people experience mild symptoms afterward. Others experience nothing at all. But, if you catch COVID-19 while wearing a mask, your cases is just as bad as if you weren't wearing a mask at all," Polis said.
Under the updated guidance, businesses can still require people to wear masks and practice social distancing. Polis asked Coloradans to be "courteous" as businesses adjust and continue wearing masks if asked.
Polis said he expected the update to be one of the final, if not the final, phase-out of COVID-19 restrictions as the state's vaccination rate increases. The state public health order is set to expire on June 1.
"We have really reached a level of immunity where the pandemic isn't over, but we are safer," Polis said.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approved vaccines for children between the ages of 12 and 15 on Thursday.