Credit: Weld County

Polis: When Weld hospitals fill, state may step in

WELD COUNTY — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has changed Weld County’s COVID-19 status from yellow (concern) to red (severe risk) effective Sunday, but it shouldn’t expect any help from the county in enforcing the restrictions that go with the increased level.

The county responded with a message Friday saying it would continue to encourage personal responsibility but “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.”

Gov. Jared Polis said during a press conference Friday that the state would prefer that Weld County establish its own mitigation plan, but the backstop “at the end of the day when your hospitals are full, the state has to take action,” he told reporters.

It’s not clear what actions the state could take to force compliance in Weld County. Requests for additional information were not returned Friday.

State law permits the state health department to close businesses, revoke licenses and forbid gatherings. Individuals and businesses are subject to fines of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail for noncompliance. They may also be held liable for costs incurred in abating the cost of the sickness.

The state’s order comes as the incidence of the novel coronavirus escalates statewide. In Weld County, the two-week cumulative incidence rate is 1,063.12 cases per 100,000 residents and the two-week count of new cases was recorded at 3,442 — both of which are more than double what they were on Nov. 3 when the state asked Weld County for a mitigation plan. No mitigation plan was submitted, according to the state’s letter to the board of commissioners.

More than 20% of residents in Weld County taking COVID tests are testing positive, the state said.

The health department’s letter to the county also said that 45 of 48 intensive care beds in the county are in use, which potentially means that patients could be moved to other counties for treatment. North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, the county’s largest hospital, has not transferred patients out of the county, a spokeswoman said.

The red level on the state’s COVID-19 dial places increased restrictions on personal gatherings, life rites and religious services, shuts down indoor dining in restaurants, changes the last call at bars to 8 p.m. and further restricts capacity at offices, gyms and other workplaces.

The state’s order obligates counties to enforce the rules. “Counties must implement requirements of the relevant level …,” according to the executive order.

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WELD COUNTY — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has changed Weld County’s COVID-19 status from yellow (concern) to red (severe risk) effective Sunday, but it shouldn’t expect any help from the county in enforcing the restrictions that go with the increased level.

The county responded with a message Friday saying it would continue to encourage personal responsibility but “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.”

Gov. Jared Polis said during a press conference Friday that the state would prefer that Weld County establish its own mitigation plan, but the backstop “at the end of the day when your hospitals are full, the state has to take action,” he told reporters.

It’s not clear what actions the state could take to force compliance in Weld County. Requests for additional information were not returned Friday.

State law permits the state health department to close businesses, revoke licenses and forbid gatherings. Individuals and businesses are subject to fines of up to $1,000 and up to a…