Citing the one-year anniversary of the emergency COVID-19 lockdown orders by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, the Teller County Board of County Commissioners have asked to be relieved of state mandates.
“We are in recovery, not in an emergency,” said Commission Vice Chairman Dan Williams, via email, after a special meeting that was called last week to pass the resolution.
“After a year, we are now seeing real impact from the continued restrictions, such as a 100% increase in our suicide rate and a dramatic rise in domestic violence and child abuse. This resolution is a strong statement of our intent to state government that it is time to return to normalcy. We need to restore our government and put control where it belongs ... at the local level ... we got this.”
In the resolution, the commissioners express concern about local businesses as a result of the lockdown as well as the mental health of citizens.
“The board believes that the citizens of Teller County are capable of exercising personal responsibility to make meaningful and safe decisions with respect to their personal health circumstances, jobs, business and personal lives,” states the resolution, in part.
Williams wrote in his email, “The tragedy of the COVID pandemic has impacted us all. Unfortunately, after a year of emergency governance it has been used by some in government to advance agendas. Teller County has done everything right. We are now vaccinating our residents several times a week, as quickly as we are provided vaccines from the State.
“We are in recovery, not in an emergency.”
Similarly, commissioners in Custer County, acting as the county health board, told state officials earlier this month they would cancel all COVID-19 restrictions, including requiring masks.
On March 3, the Custer County board lifted all COVID restrictions in a 2-1 vote, according to reports from the Wet Mountain Tribune.
Clifford Brown, the county’s public health director, reportedly told the board that an executive order from Polis “allows a county to lift restrictions if it has returned to normal.”
In a March 5 letter to the board and Brown, the county’s public health director, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, reminded them that their decision “is in direct violation of the Governor’s executive orders and the state public health orders” and the executive order “further requires consultation with the state and the meeting of specified metrics in order for a county to move levels.”
Failure to comply with public health orders could result in sanctions, including the loss of federal or state funding to counties who are in violation, Hunsaker Ryan wrote.
She asked that the county notify her by March 6 that it would comply with the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, which had Custer County listed at one of the least restrictive levels.
The Custer County board of health, in a 3-0 vote March 10, decided to tell the state it would not rescind its decision.
Commissioner Tom Flower acknowledged that what they are doing is outside the guidelines of the state. “You either choke that down or we negotiate,” Flower said. “I don’t know what there is to negotiate. Either we go back on the dial or we don’t. ... We’d better know the consequences of that.”
The commissioners discussed what those financial consequences could be. A $2 million grant from the Department of Local Affairs is pending, he said, as well as federal dollars from the Biden stimulus that passed the U.S. House last week.
Douglas County, which has also bristled against the state’s restrictions, hailed Custer County’s actions in its own request on March 9 to seek the state’s permission to fully reopen.
In other business, the Teller County commissioners passed a second resolution at last week’s special meeting that states the board’s opposition to HB 1106, the Safe and Secure Storage of Firearms Act.
In the resolution, the board states that counties have the authority to adopt and enforce ordinances.
A locked up firearm makes it “inoperable for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of defense of self in a home and is unconstitutional,” states the resolution, in part.
“The state of Colorado has no Constitutional authority to regulate and define what firearms a citizen chooses for defense of self and how said firearms are to be secured or stored.”
Commissioner Erik Stone testified against the bill this month before the state legislature in Denver.
Colorado Politics reporter Marianne Goodland contributed to this article.