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Weld County officials say they won't enforce Level Red COVID-19 restrictions

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Posted at 11:56 AM, Nov 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 18:58:32-05

WELD COUNTY, Colo. — Weld County officials said they will not enforce the guidelines on the state's COVID-19 dial after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced an additional five counties will move to Level Red Sunday.

CDPHE announced Thursday evening the following counties will move to Level Red Sunday at 5 p.m.:

  • Alamosa
  • Otero
  • Prowers
  • Pueblo
  • Weld

Within an hour of the public announcement from CDPHE, Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams made a post on Facebook, which said his office would not be enforcing the Level Red guidelines because they are not law enforcement-related. He said members of the Weld County community can, "wear a mask if you are at risk (if you choose to)."

Friday morning, the Weld County Board of Commissioners said the county would not be enforcing the state's mandate.

The state’s decision to move Weld County into the red portion of the dial does not change the stance of the Weld County Board of Commissioners with regard to enforcement of the state’s mandates. Instead, 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. 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.

The county will continue to encourage individuals to actively engage in prevention methods with regard to the virus: physically distance yourself from others, wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home if you are sick, clean frequently touched surfaces. The county will continue to encourage individuals to evaluate their personal situation and make decisions that protect them as best as possible.

In the letter CDPHE sent to Weld County, the department requested a mitigation plan from Weld County on Nov. 3 and never received one. At the time the county was seeing a two-week cumulative incidence rate of 456.82 of 100,000 people, a percent positivity of 10.84% and a two-week COVID-19 case count of 1,479. As of Thursday, those numbers jumped to a two-week cumulative incidence rate of 1063.12 of 100,000 people, a percent positivity of 16.6% and a two-week COVID-19 case count of 3,442.

CDPHE said Weld county’s incidence rate has been above the Level Red threshold for 19 days. In a press conference Friday, Gov. Jared Polis said Weld County has only three ICU beds available and no non-ICU beds.

"As much as we admire the work that's been done there to reduce the spread of the virus, it simply hasn't worked, so it's really important that they either take these other data-driven steps that we've given them or, of course, we continue to encourage any county to put in place a mitigation plan."

Polis said the goal is to avoid applying a statewide measure, but rather allow counties to offer a science-based mitigation plan that works best for them. At some point, the state would have to act to prevent hospitals from being filled, he said. Polis' office later released the following statement:

You’re either on the side of the virus or the side of Coloradans. Deadly COVID cases are spiraling out of control statewide, and for a county with only 3 hospital beds left open to undermine efforts to save lives and prevent the spread of this deadly virus is essentially passing the proverbial buck on to the rest of the state. Shifting the burden of care onto healthcare workers and hospitals working around the clock and on to neighboring counties by forcing residents to be treated elsewhere is not a solution that works.

Polis announced the changes to the COVID-19 dial Tuesday, which included adding an additional level to the dial, Level Purple, indicating hospitals are overwhelmed. No county is at Level Purple at this time.

Under Level Red, restaurants cannot offer indoor dining, 10% capacity for non-critical office businesses and 50% capacity for critical and non-critical retail businesses, among other restrictions.

MORE: Orange, red — now purple? What Colorado's updated COVID-19 dial means for your county

The state announced Tuesday the following counties will move to Level Red Friday at 5 p.m.:

  • Adams
  • Arapahoe
  • Boulder
  • Broomfield
  • Clear Creek
  • Denver
  • Douglas
  • Jefferson
  • La Plata
  • Logan
  • Mesa
  • Morgan
  • Routt
  • Summit
  • Washington