MONUMENT • Town trustees declared actions taken by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in response to the COVID-19 pandemic unconstitutional during a special meeting Monday night, asking the governor to reclassify every business as an essential business.
“All businesses, places of worship and governmental meetings are essential to the exercise of individuals’ fundamental rights and it is discriminatory for the state to treat some, but not all, establishments with preference by labeling them as essential,” a town resolution passed unanimously by panel states.
Trustees do not support COVID-19 restrictions that would shut down Monument businesses and the town will not follow executive orders limiting attendance at public meetings, according to the resolution.
“The Board of Trustees understands that, notwithstanding their unconstitutional nature, State authorities will attempt to pressure businesses to comply and may threaten their livelihoods,” part of the resolution reads. “The Town of Monument does not have the ability to preclude State enforcement actions. The Board therefore calls on each business and individual to determine for themselves the level to which they desire to comply, in their best interests, with the Governor’s unconstitutional orders.”
Businesses should evaluate their own establishments and their capacity to safely accept customers, and individuals should use their best judgment when entering any store, according to the resolution.
The resolution was passed after what Monument Mayor Don Wilson said were passionate discussions on business restrictions during a meeting in early December.
“The conversation that inspired the resolution was very organic. I don't think any of us expected to have that conversation,” Wilson said by phone Tuesday. “We're not going against the arbitrary side of restrictions. None of us are advocating for throwing masks away or not social distancing. We wanted to make it clear in last night's meeting that we aren't telling businesses not to follow restrictions. They're under state mandate ... and they need to use their judgment, just as patrons need to use their own judgment.”
But when asked about the push back from Monument in a news conference Tuesday, Polis said the courts have upheld health restrictions as constitutional.
"These extraordinary steps have saved the lives of thousands of Coloradans, and we have sought since the beginning to balance the need for economic activity, the need for social and emotional fulfillment, with the need to save lives, prevent agony and loss, and we have done that in Colorado," Polis said.
El Paso County was moved to Level Red on the state’s COVID-19 dial — just one level down from Level Purple, the state’s “Stay at Home” level — on Nov. 27. Level Red restrictions closed indoor dining and restricted gyms to 10% capacity, or 10 people indoors per room or outdoors in groups of fewer than 10.
After spending five weeks in Level Red on the state’s COVID-19 dial and showing a sustained decline in cases of the novel coronavirus, El Paso County moved down to Level Orange on Jan. 4, easing restrictions across the county.
Under Level Orange guidelines, restaurants can operate at 25% capacity with a maximum capacity of 50. Gym capacity also increased to 25% or 50 people indoors.
COVID-19 cases across El Paso County have been declining since Dec. 3 and are down to about 514 cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks from 1,343 cases per 100,000 people at the peak, data from the El Paso County Department of Public Health show. The rate of cases in the county is still well above the threshold for Level Red on the state’s dial, which is 350 cases per 100,000 people over two weeks.
On Tuesday the county’s positivity rate — or the number of positive tests over a 14-day period — was 8.92%, within the threshold for Level Yellow, a step down from Level Orange, but greater than the 5% threshold recommended by the World Health Organization.
Since Dec. 10 hospitalizations have also been decreasing, with 126 total COVID-19 related hospitalizations as of Tuesday. Of those, 118 were confirmed COVID-19 cases and eight were under investigation.
Jessica Snouwaert and Seth Klamann contributed to this report.