Letter: Unenforceable public health orders
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, states and counties have imposed restrictions that would have been previously unthinkable. When the Routt County Board of Commissioners issued a public health order Feb. 1 that restricted the number of households at personal gatherings, restaurants and lodging, it raised a bunch of questions.
Can I have friends over? Can I have out-of-town guests? Can I rent out a spare room nightly? Can a VHR rent to groups? Can my roommate have a friend over for the night?
You may think you know the answers, but I can assure you that they are not what you may think.
With questions in need of answers, I contacted the county Feb. 9 asking about the lodging household restriction. They simply replied: “Please see the attached public health order (ref. No. 12). Your compliance with our current PHO is appreciated.” This gave me the impression that multiple households were prohibited, and it was enforceable by law.
To confirm, I followed up with Steamboat Springs Police Department. After a few conversations with the department, they finally said that when someone rents a place, they legally become part of the household making the restriction unenforceable.
Since guests automatically become part of the household, multiple families can rent spare rooms, VHRs and hotel rooms without fear of violating the restriction. But doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of the restriction? Absolutely.
The bigger question is, did our commissioners knowingly issue an unenforceable restriction? Or did they just throw it out there to see if we would comply?
With a bit of confusion still in the air, I asked both the city and county for clarification Feb. 15. Lo and behold, the commissioners issued a new public health order Feb. 19 for lodging that defers to the state limit, currently at two households. Wait! What? The state is in on this too?
It is perfectly clear that the intent of the restriction is to reduce the spread of the virus, which we all want. Unfortunately, without clear direction to law enforcement, the new household restriction is no more enforceable than its predecessor at the state or county level.
If the restriction is to remain unenforceable, it should be rescinded. And an apology from our commissioners and governor should be issued to the people and businesses of Routt County who are just trying to make it through this mess.
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