District attorney: Violation of public health orders is a crime | SteamboatToday.com

District attorney: Violation of public health orders is a crime

Routt County law enforcement agencies, including the district attorney’s office, are charged with protecting public safety. Doing that well is not always easy because it requires just the right balance between helping people not to break the law in the first place, and enforcing the law through prosecution if they do, especially for crimes that put others at risk. In a free society, that balance can be hard to find, but everyone can agree that it’s better when we all recognize our obligation to each other and simply choose the unselfish and decent path in the first place.

If we are going to get the COVID-19 infection rate turned around in our communities, public health order compliance is critical in the coming weeks, particularly regarding limits on in-person personal gatherings.

Unfortunately, some of our local youth and presumably their parents recently chose not to follow certain provisions of our public health orders regarding personal gatherings, now to the detriment of many others. As understandable as that choice may be for student-age people, these scenarios present a high risk of infection spread right now, especially when it involves local people who are traveling out of state.

To date we know that such activity has contributed significantly to a sharp increase in infection rates in Routt County. Against that background, it seems that temporarily forgoing in-person personal gatherings of more than 10 people from more than two households barely qualifies as a sacrifice, and yet it will do so much to help keep us safe and open.

Sacrifice takes on a different meaning when lives and livelihoods are at stake. As the holidays and winter tourism season approach, both as a Routt County citizen and the district attorney, I am confident that we will step up and all make the decent, compassionate and required choice to comply with limits related to personal gatherings.

Public health, meaning the health of all of us, has to be our priority right now — our physical health, emotional health and economic health. If we don’t make the small sacrifice of staying in tune with personal gathering limits, more and more people will get sick as a result, which will lead to more restrictions, and people and commerce will suffer. In that case, as a public safety office, our approach to public health orders will need to change from education and prevention, to enforcement.

Violation of public health orders is a crime and for adults can result in jail, fines, probation or other consequences. For juveniles, it carries the possibility of adjudication as a delinquent, incarceration in a juvenile detention facility or probation. None of that should be, nor do I believe will be necessary, because the only ask for all of us is to act with common decency and a strong sense of community responsibility.

We often talk about the supportive culture of this community — let’s stand together and prove it. Be well and be safe.

Matt Karzen

Routt County District Attorney

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