Weld County commissioners say they won’t enforce state Level Red restrictions as COVID-19 surges

Weld County said Friday it would not obey the new COVID-19 restrictions as the state changes the county’s level on the COVID dial.

“The state’s decision to move Weld County into the red portion of the dial does not change the stance of the Weld County Board of Commissioners with regard to enforcement of the state’s mandates,” the commissioners wrote in a news release. “Instead, county government continues to do what it has done since March, which is promote and encourage residents and business owners to take individual responsibility and make decisions to protect themselves, their families, their community and their businesses.”

The state announced late Thursday that it was moving Weld and four other counties to Level Red on Sunday as a result of surging coronavirus cases, following 15 counties that are moving there Friday afternoon.

Weld County, its commissioners wrote, will not enforce the host of new restrictions the new level brings, including limiting attendees in house of worship and demanding restaurants close indoor dining areas.

“The county will continue to encourage individuals to evaluate their personal situation and make decisions that protect them as best as possible,” the commissioners’ statement said.

Level Red used to mean a return to stay-at-home under Colorado’s old color-coded dial system; however, Gov. Jared Polis on Monday announced a revised dial that added Level Purple as the most restrictive option.

The new Level Red bars personal gatherings of any size, forces restaurants to close indoor dining, limits office capacity to 10% and recommends high schools and colleges switch to remote learning, among a host of other restrictions designed to avoid a return to full stay-at-home mandates, which state and local officials fear would cripple an already-bruised economy.

Colorado COVID-19 dial was designed to be data-driven. However, the system has ended up being negotiable, as decisions on restrictions are being informed partly by data, partly by politics.

Weld County, in particular, has repeatedly chaffed at instituting restrictions to curb the novel coronavirus.

Last week, the Greeley Tribune detailed a call between state officials, including Polis, and Weld County commissioners. If the director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment directed Weld to move up the dial, one commissioner reportedly said after the call, “Tell her no.”

And in May, with businesses still closed due to the governor’s stay-at-home order, Weld County commissioners said they would allow businesses to open in defiance of the state order — despite reported warnings from the county’s top public health official.

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