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Longmont mayor challenges Weld County's decision not to enforce state COVID restrictions

If one of the two hospitals in Longmont is nearing capacity, Mayor Brian Bagley wants the space reserved for patients from counties that enforce the restrictions.

DENVER — With hospitals preparing for the potential to reach capacity due to COVID-19, Longmont's mayor wants to limit who can receive help in his city's two hospitals.

Mayor Brian Bagley is seeking to put an issue on the city council's agenda that would restrict hospitals from caring for patients that live in counties where leaders are not enforcing the state's restrictions.

The proposal ends with this wording:

"Whereas Longmont may face limited hospital capacity in the future as a result of Weld County’s refusal to comply with the governor’s emergency orders;

I direct the city manager and the city attorney to prepare an ordinance for first reading to be placed on the council agenda at our next regular session of city council. The ordinance shall state that: It shall be unlawful for any hospital (or healthcare provider) to provide medical services to any resident of a county or municipality wherein their elected officials have refused to comply with the governor’s emergency orders so long as there is a resident of a county or municipality that does comply with the governor’s emergency orders needing access to Longmont hospitals (or general healthcare services, medications, PPE equipment, etc.)."

"If we lack hospital space; beds, staff, medicine, PPE, we are going to treat those people residing in counties that do comply with the governor's orders," said Bagley.

There are two hospitals in Longmont: UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital and Longmont United Hospital.

Longmont straddles Boulder and Weld counties.

Both are in "Level Red," according to Colorado's new color dial, which has the second-strictest restrictions, including closed dining rooms for all restaurants.

Weld County Commissioners and the Weld County Sheriff have said they won't enforce the state's restrictions.

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"I'm hoping to show the Weld County Commissioners, that it's not all about you. I also want my restaurants open," said Bagley.

According to Bagley, Longmont has seven ICU beds available out of 10 total in Boulder County.

He said in the two hospitals in Weld County, there are three ICU beds available.

On the Weld County Coronavirus data website, there are 57 "Adult ICU beds in Weld County regional hospitals available today."

Weld County's data includes 14 hospitals, 12 of which are not in Weld County.

"Weld County currently has three ICU beds available. They've got two hospitals. They got three ICU beds available, but they're pointing to 12 hospitals outside of their county in order to, in part, justify the refusal," said Bagley. "If you want to continue flagrantly violating the governor's orders, I'm going to propose that you need to get in line. We're going to serve those people in Longmont and other counties who comply with the orders."

In an interview on Nov. 17, Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer told Next with Kyle Clark that in a conference call with Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, commissioners wanted to know how the state intended to enforce its order.

"We don’t look at just the two hospitals that are located right here in Weld County. We look at it as the Northern Colorado region," Kirkmeyer said on Nov. 17. "Our county is so large, people in the southwest part of our county, they're not coming to Greeley for hospitalization or even probably for doctors, in all likelihood, they might be going over to Lafayette to Good Samaritan, they might be going to Children's Hospital which is in Broomfield County, they might be going to St. Anthony's North which is in Adams County."

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"What I'm trying to do is put political pressure on the citizens of Weld County to say, 'Wait a second. Timeout. Maybe we should reconsider,'" said Bagley.

This isn't the first time Bagley has made news regarding COVID-19.

During a city council meeting on March 25, he said: "I want someone to come over and spit in my mouth, so I can go to the hospital now cause I'm not going to die."

"Back in March, I was quite clear: number one, do not lock us down. There will be unintended consequences. I was right. We're not locking down again, nobody wants to lock down again. And two, I said, 'Come on over and spit in my mouth,' what I meant was, I wanted to get COVID early."

Is it even possible for a hospital to check identifications at the door before providing care?

"Any politicization of the virus catches patients in the middle, and our hospitals are going to continue treating everyone who comes through the front door because it's the right thing to do, regardless of what local elected officials in this county or that county say," said Joshua Ewing, Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the Colorado Hospital Association.

There's also a law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act or EMTALA that might get in the way.

"It's a federal law that was passed in the 1980s to ensure that any patient showing up at a hospital could get screened and treated," said Ewing.

"This isn't a refusal to provide health care," said Bagley. "What it's saying is, if the time comes that there is a lack of ICU bed space, and there's not enough to go around, it's going to the people that have helped preserve as many ICU beds as possible."

As you would expect, Weld County Commissioners do not accept.

"We have someone out there trying to interject themselves into the private business marketplace and tell a group of hospitals how they're supposed to manage their patients and how they're supposed to deliver care to two individuals that have the same exact virus regardless of what precautions someone may have taken or may have not taken, and that to me is extremely troubling," said Republican Weld County Commissioner Kevin Ross.

In response to Bagley's proposal, the Weld County Commissioners released the following statement:

"This Longmont mayor has taken a page out of Gov. Polis’ playbook by going after working families and compromising the mental wellbeing of the people who live in his community. The answer to this pandemic is not solely to close down small businesses the week of Thanksgiving; it is not to continually punish working-class families or the individuals who bag your groceries, wait on you in restaurants, deliver food to your home while you watch Netflix and chill; and it is certainly not to illegally deny healthcare to residents. But that is what this simple Mayor wants to do. 

Weld County’s statement about promoting personal responsibility and not enforcing mandates has been woefully misunderstood by those living in fear and wishing to be governed by intimidation. Weld County is not an “anything goes” county, it is a “make the best decisions for yourself and your business” county, because we trust our residents to do what is best for themselves, their families, their businesses and their community. If the mandates put in place months ago worked, why are the numbers going up all along the Front Range? 

Mayor Bagley is looking for someone/something to blame. Hear this: Weld County is not the problem.

It’s very easy for Mayor Bagley to sit in his office, still collecting a paycheck, and release an edict that denies equal protection of the law to the very people who shop and work in Longmont, and whose children attend Longmont schools."

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