Coronavirus, Exclusives, Featured, Fort Collins, Larimer County, Original Report, Sherrie Peif

Larimer County health dept. threatens elementary school student with fines, jail for non-compliance

FORT COLLINS — A letter threatening large fines and jail time to anyone — including very young children — who do not comply with a quarantine order from the Larimer County Department of Public Health and Environment (LCDPHE) amounts to little more than that — just a threat, says the sheriff who would have to enforce it.

Complete Colorado received a copy of a letter sent to a Fort Collins elementary school-aged child who was suspected of having “close contact” with someone who tested positive for COVID -19. In the letter, Larimer County threatens the recipient with a $5,000 fine and up to 18 months in the county jail if they do not comply with a list of demands that include:

  • No travel by airplane, ship, long-distance bus or train;
  • All other travel must be approved by the LDCPHE;
  • Separation from others and avoidance of all public activities;
  • No use of public transportation;
  • Restrict visitors to the home;
  • Not go to work or school.

The letter further says the quarantined person “shall cooperate with health care professionals in the administration of necessary infection control” and “shall allow daily contact with LCDPHE” to determine if the person has developed symptoms.

The child apparently had a classmate who tested positive.

The child’s identity and that of the child’s parents is being withheld to protect their privacy.

Complete Colorado contacted LCDPHE, the Larimer County Manager and Larimer County Commissioners several times over the course of four days attempting to get a response and did not hear back.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith

However, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith told Complete Colorado that his office will not enforce the order — against anyone of any age — should the LCDPHE attempt to do so.

“The system is not set up that way,” Smith said. “It’s not reality. Essentially what you have are public health officials quoting a state statute making failure to comply with a public health order some level of a misdemeanor offense. The reality is we have yet to see that used in Colorado.”

Smith said he does believe the letter to children is an oversight on the part of the LCDPHE. He does not believe it was done intentionally and said he doesn’t believe contact tracers have any idea who they are sending those letters to.

“But I can understand how a parent would get upset over something like this,” Smith said. “It is absolutely not a legitimate threat.”

Smith said there is no place in his jail for anyone violating any of the public health orders around Coronavirus.

Smith said he had a discussion with LCDPHE and the county commissioners last spring about the importance of their responsibility in keeping the public safe, and that threats were not part of that.

“When you threaten people with arrest, I don’t take it lightly,” Smith said. “I get frustrated with the governor when he throws out his threats. I get the need to protect people, but I don’t believe in threatening people. Taking away someone’s freedom is something no police officer takes lightly.”

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