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State regulators threaten licensees over COVID orders; outbreaks in other states cited

DENVER–As part of an attempt to enforce COVID-19 restrictions, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) is threatening licensed professionals if they disobey any of Governor Polis’ numerous executive orders, or health orders issued by the state’s public health department.

In a July 1 letter to licensees DORA writes, “Please know that if you violate the current public health order, depending on the nature of the violation, regulatory action may be taken against your license.”

According to its website, DORA regulates “more than 500,000 licensees within more than 50 professions, occupations and businesses” throughout Colorado.

One licensed professional engineer who contacted Complete Colorado by email said, “After reading your article about DORA requiring insurance companies to cover injuries incurred during protests (which really ticked me off), I got this message today from DORA’s Executive Director threatening to take my Professional Engineer’s License if I violate a public health order – like attending a riot during a curfew or not wearing a mask!!! I am outraged.”

DORA letter. Click to enlarge.

The writer is referring to a June 30 Complete Colorado article by reporter Sherrie Peif finding that, in a previous bulletin, DORA had “redefined the term ‘community protests’ to protect those who are involved in illegal acts from losing their health coverage if they are injured.”

But threats against professional and business licenses is nothing new.  In early April, during the depths of Colorado’s economic shutdown, Complete Colorado reported on dentists fearful of losing their licenses for inadvertently running afoul of ambiguous health orders concerning the delivery of emergency health care, leading some to temporarily shutter their practices rather than risk being forced out of business.  In May, Governor Polis directed Tri-County Health Department to suspend the license of a Castle Rock restaurant for openly defying his shutdown order.

Threats against business licenses is also a standard part of local health orders.  As the Pitkin County Attorney told the Aspen Times newspaper, “the state of Colorado has said it is ‘ready, willing and able’ to assist the county in revoking a business’s liquor license or food retail license” for violation of a county health order.

But in this case, DORA seems more worried about what is happening in other states than what is actually happening in Colorado.

“As you are likely aware, we have seen increasing and alarming trends of COVID-19 outbreaks in states neighboring Colorado,” the DORA letter says. “While the root causes for these spikes are still being analyzed, we know that the festive atmosphere that arrives with summer coupled with the gradual loosening of restrictions on businesses, public gatherings, and recreational activities has no doubt played a role.”

On June 30, just a day before DORA put licensees on notice that their livelihoods depend on adherence to ever-changing orders and guidance, Governor Polis ordered the closure of bars and nightclubs, claiming that a slight increase in Colorado COVID-19 cases justifies the shutdown, as well as using the neighboring states outbreaks as a rationale.   In a briefing Polis said, “It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to have safe social distancing in bars and nightclubs.”

According to current data from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE):

  • The 3-day average for new reported COVID-19 infections increased from 3.91 per 100,000 on June 30 to 7.39 per 100,000 on July 13.
  • On June 27, the number of people hospitalized for confirmed COVID-19 was at 126 patients, its lowest since March 24.
  • As of July 13, the number hospitalized rose to 220, an increase of 94.
  • Between June 30 and July 13 there were 23 deaths.
  • On July 12, CDPHE reports that 89.41% of COVID19 deaths have occurred in the age 60+ population.
  • The majority of deaths in Colorado have occurred in group-living situations like retirement and nursing homes.

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