Coronavirus, Featured, Greeley, Sherrie Peif, Weld County

Weld County: We will not enforce state’s ‘Level Red’ COVID mandate

GREELEY — Less than 24 hours after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) notified Weld County that it would be moving the county to the “Level Red” portion of a public health dial in response to elevated coronavirus cases, the board of Weld County Commissioners held to what they have been saying for the past nine months.

“County government continues to do what it has done since March, which is promote and encourage residents and business owners to take individual responsibility and make decisions to protect themselves, their families, their community and their businesses,” a news release read Friday morning.

If the statement wasn’t clear enough, the commissioners added to their previous statements that they would not enforce state mandates by individually commenting on specific orders from CDPHE.

  • “The county will not enforce a rule confining individuals to their homes for an undetermined length of time;
  • The county will not enforce a rule that states residents cannot have personal gatherings.
  • The county will not tell the school districts how to provide education to their students.
  • The county will not enforce a rule requiring a reduction of attendees in places of worship.
  • The county will not enforce a rule demanding restaurants close their indoor dining areas.
  • The county will not enforce any rule that forces a business to shut down or impedes their ability to operate.”

Under state mandates, counties act as the enforcement mechanism for businesses holding state licenses. In a previous interview with Complete Colorado, board chairman Mike Freeman explained that businesses such as restaurants are in a contract with the state over how to operate their businesses. If the state wishes to revoke a license, it is still the board of Weld County Commissioners who must make the final decision.

The latest comment by commissioners reinforced their decision to not revoke those licenses.

In a statement to 9News earlier this week, officials at CDPHE clarified how enforcement of the mandates is handled.

“Enforcement always starts with county collaboration, voluntary compliance, and education,” the statement read. “Under Colorado law, CDPHE, the local public health agency, and the district attorney have the authority to enforce an order. If a county is unable or unwilling to enforce an order, the Colorado Attorney General, at the request of and representing CDPHE, can seek a judge’s order in state court to require a person or business to immediately comply with an order. A district attorney can also work with them to do so. CDPHE may also withhold funding from a county that does not comply with executive or public health orders.”

The state has threatened withholding of funds to Weld County previously, but no funds have ever been withheld, and county officials have previously said there are no funds to withhold and/or are not concerned by the amount if there were.

Weld County’s District Attorney Michael Rouke has said he will not prosecute businesses or individuals for violation of public health orders.

Greeley Police Chief Mark Jones has said his department “will not be the social distancing police.” And Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams has said his officers will not cite residents or businesses for violations of public health orders either. On Thursday, Reams reinforced that on his official Facebook page:

“Please remember that these recommendations and mandates are not law enforcement related and are a public health topic,” the post said in part.

Complete Colorado has also learned that Mesa and Douglas county officials are looking into how to push back against the “red” designation as well. Complete Colorado will continue to follow developments on all three counties.

Weld County will continue to encourage individuals to actively engage in prevention methods to protect against the virus.

“Physically distance yourself from others, wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home if you are sick, clean frequently touched surfaces,” the news release said. “The county will continue to encourage individuals to evaluate their personal situation and make decisions that protect them as best as possible.”

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