Routt County institutes new public health order, formalizing the state’s dial framework
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County Board of Commissioners adopted a new public health order Friday, codifying the state’s dial framework as how the county will set restrictions on social gatherings and businesses.
The adopting of the new order discontinues the previous, but everything contained in the old order is also included in the new order.
Routt County had 70 new cases last week, by far the most cases the county has seen in a week since the start of the pandemic, according to updated data about new cases. That brings the two-week new case count to 96, putting the county in metrics outlined for the Stay at Home level of the state’s dial.
“The main point really is that we have a lot of cases, it is showing no sign of stopping,” said Nicole Harty, county epidemiologist.
According to the county dashboard, there have been a total of 310 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. The state health department, which tracks cases differently than the county, has a total of 335 cases in the county.
“Our worst fears are coming to fruition,” Commissioner Doug Monger said. “An even further fear than that is we don’t even know the depth of where this thing can go.”
The new order incorporates all executive orders from Gov. Jared Polis and all public health orders from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and compels residents to follow those orders.
There is a current state order limiting personal gatherings to 10 people from no more than two households.
The order also requires all residents to cooperate with contact tracing efforts being made by the Routt County Public Health Department and requires anyone who receives a quarantine or isolation order issued by the county to adhere to that order.
The order maintains previous mask mandates requiring mask to be worn in pubic indoor spaces and if 6 feet social distancing is not possible. Health officials noted that even outside, if social distancing isn’t possible, then masks should be worn.
Routt County Attorney Erick Knaus said creating a new order will better formalize the states restriction plan and allow for better enforcement.
“Education is still very important, assisting folks to adhere to public health orders is still very important,” Knaus said. “There comes a time when further enforcement measures are needed and in our tool bag we have several different things at our disposal.”
Knaus outlined several different tools his office can use to enforce the order. In the case of a business, he said they could seek help from state regulatory agencies to compel a business to comply. They could also seek an injunction or protective order from a court with the civil action against a business.
The third, and to Knaus least desirable option, is criminal enforcement against businesses or individuals who shirk public health orders.
Commissioners moved the county into the orange level of the state’s Safer at Home dial earlier this week, expecting state officials to require a move. Hours later state health officials sent a letter to county officials requiring the county to move to Level Orange.
Level Orange, previously known as Level 3, requires that restaurants, businesses, offices and indoor gathering to be limited to 25% of capacity.
While the county’s case data would put it in the Stay at Home part of the state’s dial framework, the dial allows for flexibility. When cases initially started to increase last month, the county was given time to come up with mitigation strategies and work with state health officials.
While the county is now in Level Orange, it is labeled by the state as “in mitigation,” meaning state officials are actively working with local officials on strategies to control the spread of the virus.
A move to Stay at Home would shut down restaurants and non-essential businesses similar to stay-at-home orders from this spring.
Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins joined the meeting during the public comment portion.
“I think it is important to also realize that regardless of the decisions that you all make as public health officials or the commissioners, that we are going to anger a certain portion of our community,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins also said he wanted to respond to what he said he feels was a misleading part of an article published Thursday by Steamboat Pilot & Today.
In statements quoted in the article, Wiggins questioned the effectiveness of masks, saying his own research found contrary positions on the issue.
“I think it is important to go on the record stating that the enforcement of these public health orders is something that the sheriff’s office takes very seriously,” Wiggins said. “Each situation is independent and will be dealt with depending on the totality of the circumstances.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With Colorado’s COVID-19 dial framework in mothballs, counties now have local control over what restrictions, if any, they are placing on their citizens.