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Weld County commissioner challenges possibility of increased COVID restrictions

After a conference call with Gov. Polis and Colorado public health officials, Barbara Kirkmeyer said CDPHE should consult with commissioners before new restrictions.

DENVER — Have you checked the state's dial dashboard lately? It's the dashboard that shows the restrictions in each county.

Today, nearly three dozen counties are labeled as "Level Orange" or "high risk."

Eighteen counties are "Level Yellow" or "concern."

Restrictions are limited in 11 counties, none of which are in the metro area.

And one county, Rio Blanco on the western slope, has the lowest level of restrictions.

The color codes are based on three criteria:

  • New cases
  • Positivity rate
  • Hospitalizations

Weld County is currently in "Level Yellow."

RELATED: Here are Colorado's 5 COVID-19 restriction phases

In a conference call last week, the Weld County Commissioners talked with Democratic Gov. Jared Polis and Jill Ryan, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

After the call ended, but before the broadcast of the public meeting was stopped, Republican Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer is heard challenging the possibility of Weld County getting dropped from yellow to orange.

"You tell her no," Kirkmeyer is heard saying. "Just tell her no."

"Our health director brought up about that he expected to get a call from the state health department saying that they were going to move us to the orange level," Kirkmeyer told Next with Kyle Clark. "And that's when I said, 'you tell her no, that she can't do that until she speaks to the Board of County Commissioners,' which is what we thought this meeting was going to be about and was not."

That was after the 25-minute call ended.

The call began with the governor asking about the number of county employees working from home.

"Where are you with telecommuting for your county employees?" asked Polis.

"We do it when it's appropriate," said Kirkmeyer.

"When is it appropriate?" asked Polis.

"When we follow the CDC guidelines. When if there is a possibility that they have been tested positive or if they are in near contact with people who have tested positive, we offer them the opportunity to telework," said Kirkmeyer.

On Monday, Kirkmeyer told Next that at Tuesday's County Commissioners meeting, the board will talk about additional telework options now that school districts are on remote learning. Until now, working from home has been limited to those sick or those possibly exposed to COVID-19.

"That would be another thing that the county could do to, kind of, model that to show that you're taking it seriously," Polis said on the conference call.

"For example, with the Department of Human Services, they've been able to still do face-to-face services for people that are most vulnerable that need those services. Unlike other counties along the Front Range, we've actually been doing a really, very good job at setting a good model for how do we provide services to our employees," said Kirkmeyer.

She even pushed back on the quality of work-from-home work.

"Some of the meetings that I've been on with your state employees, they've got a whole lot of activity going on in the background instead of focusing on the meeting that we're supposed to be at," said Kirkmeyer. "Basically, every single one of our employees we consider critical mission employees, and we expect them to provide services, and that we show to and demonstrate to our constituents, that county government is open for business and that we're doing it in a safe and responsible manner."

RELATED: Gov. Jared Polis to call legislature back for special session on COVID-19 relief

RELATED: Increase in COVID-19 cases overwhelms Colorado's contact tracers

Offices under a "Level Yellow" are allowed 50% capacity, based on state guidelines. Under a "Level Orange" it's 25% capacity.

Capacity at businesses, restaurants, places of worship and personal gatherings are impacted by the color-coded dashboard, which are based on the state's public health department.

"And our question would have been to (Polis), how does he expect to enforce his own orders? Those are not our orders. Those are his orders. Our sheriff has said that he will not enforce those orders and our District Attorney is not willing to enforce those orders either," said Kirkmeyer.

On Monday night, Next emailed the state public health department and the governor's office to find out what happens, not only if a county doesn't follow the restrictions based on the dial dashboard, but doesn't choose to enforce it. This was the reply:

Enforcement always starts with county collaboration, voluntary compliance, and education. Under Colorado law, CDPHE, the local public health agency, and the district attorney have the authority to enforce an order. If a county is unable or unwilling to enforce an order, the Colorado Attorney General, at the request of and representing CDPHE, can seek a judge’s order in state court to require a person or business to immediately comply with an order. A district attorney can also work with them to do so. CDPHE may also withhold funding from a county that does not comply with executive or public health orders.

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