GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Mesa County is seeking authority to reopen on its own timeline, ahead of the scheduled statewide stay-at-home order expiration date of April 26.
Mesa County Commissioners voted Monday to approve a letter to Gov. Jared Polis, requesting the county to be excluded from the provisions of the March 25 stay-at-home executive order.
Mesa County is the second known Colorado county to make such a request. Eagle County, one of the hardest-hit counties of the COVID-19 pandemic early on, is seeking exemptions from some portions of the state's COVID-19 executive and public health orders in an effort to boost morale and the county's economy. County commissioners sent a letter to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Thursday. Polis said Monday that he expects to approve the county's request by the end of the week.
In the letter from Mesa County commissioners, officials are requesting the exclusion so it can implement its own reopening plan "in the manner and time frame that best meets the needs of our communities."
The county argues that it makes sense for it to start easing restrictions since the number of infections has remained flat since early April. The county currently has a cumulative total of 34 positive cases and six hospitalizations, three of which have since been discharged, the letter states.
"This action will not burden any public health resources outside of Mesa County. Our local public health agency will still regulate social behaviors, events, types of business that may reopen, and travel into and around the county, to control disease transmission. Additionally, hospital capacity in Mesa County remains more than adequate to address COVID-19 cases as well as other medical issues in our regional service area," the commissioners write in the letter.
Mesa County Commissioners Scott McInnis, Rose Pugliese, and John Justman had sent a separate letter to Polis Monday, saying they were disappointed over the "massive lack of communication and coordination" in the state's decision to lease the Western Slope Memory Care facility as an alternative care facility for COVID-19 patients.
In that letter, commissioners stated that the facility is not needed based on the low number of hospitalizations in the county, and they were "denied the opportunity to have proper planning time to mitigate and to keep our community safe and informed."
Gov. Polis has not moved away from the April 26 date. The governor said on Monday that he looks forward with working with Mesa County and other counties with reopening as soon as possible. He outlined what is likely in store for Coloradans in the weeks and months ahead once some social distancing measures can start being lifted and some businesses reopened.