Who was that masked man (or woman)? Just your socially responsible and caring neighbor. Or hopefully you, if you’ve been out in public the last couple of days.


Last Friday, Gov. Jared Polis gave word that health care professionals now are recommending that people wear cloth masks or face coverings whenever they go outside around other people.


You can be forgiven if you’re having trouble masking your frustration.


Just a few days ago, people were being discouraged from wearing masks. Medical professionals were saying the masks would do little to stop the spread of the virus and that their use should be limited to people on the front lines of the crisis ― that is, the sick and the people caring for them.


Well, that was then and this is now.


The truth is, doctors don’t know everything there is to know about this strain of coronavirus, but they are learning more every day. And as they learn more, the information they relay to the public is bound to change.


We’ve seen that as this crisis has developed.


For weeks, we heard that there was no need to take precautions beyond those typical during cold and flu season, such as washing hands thoroughly and avoiding sick people. Then we learned that we needed to maintain “social distancing” of at least six feet even from people who had no apparent symptoms of the virus.


Then we were told to avoid gathering in groups. And eventually, to stay home unless absolutely necessary.


Sure, it’s tough to keep up with all these different and sometimes conflicting directives about what we should or should not be doing. They add new layers of inconvenience to our lives.


Guess what? We need to be following those directives, anyway.


Regarding the face masks, Polis said they can be of some benefit in preventing airborne germs from being spread, particularly when people cough or sneeze. Not all masks are created equal, of course.


A professionally manufactured surgical mask is going to provide better protection than a mask fashioned out of underwear from instructions on the internet.


And the masks aren’t intended to protect the wearers; they’re intended to protect people the wearers might accidentally expose to the virus.


A highly unscientific sampling of Pueblo’s population suggests that some people have embraced the idea of wearing masks in public, while others clearly have not. A trip to a local Walmart Saturday afternoon revealed a mix of the masked and unmasked.


People need to take this and other precautions intended to slow the spread of the virus seriously. And slowing the spread is really what we’re talking about here. If there were a way to completely stop the virus in its tracks, we’re betting most people would be willing to do whatever that was so they could get back to their normal lives as quickly as possible.


Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet. We just have to take reasonable steps based on the best available information from health care professionals.


If it helps, try to think of the masks or face coverings as coronavirus-inspired fashion statements. At his news conference last week, Polis wore a surgical mask patterned with the Colorado state logo.


There’s no reason why Colorado residents can’t have some fun with the masks while they’re being safe.


Just be safe.