Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Residents to county commissioners: Free us from COVID-19 isolation orders.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2020 at 12:02 PM

Commissioners, from left, Longinos Gonzalez Jr., Holly Williams, Cami Bremer, Mark Waller and Stan VanderWerf. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY
  • Courtesy El Paso County
  • Commissioners, from left, Longinos Gonzalez Jr., Holly Williams, Cami Bremer, Mark Waller and Stan VanderWerf.
About a dozen El Paso County residents urged El Paso County commissioners on April 28 to seek a waiver from the state to enable reopening all business activity, despite the continued spread of COVID-19.

They said to do otherwise would violate their constitutional rights while they downplayed the impact of the virus, which has killed about 700 people in the state but devastated thousands of small businesses and deprived hundreds of thousands of their economic livelihood.

Commissioners, who are practicing social distancing by having only two commissioners in the meeting room and others dialing in remotely, didn't vote on a waiver. But commissioners Holly Williams and Longinos Gonzalez Jr. spoke in support of adopting its own rules. All five county commissioners are Republicans.

Read up on the rules of seeking a waiver here.

It's worth noting that many of those speaking against continued "stay-at-home" or "safer-at-home" rules imposed by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the commissioners' meeting room. Only a couple used hand sanitizer at the dais before or after speaking, and none wore masks.

A small contingent of residents across the state have been staging demonstrations demanding stay-home orders be lifted to allow them to go wherever and whenever they choose. However, polls nationally have shown 70 percent or more think states are opening too soon as the coronavirus continues to claim lives and testing required to corral the virus continues to fall short of some scientists' recommendations.

While the catch phrase employed by state and local officials is "We are in this together," Commissioner Williams noted that "we really aren't in this together," because some people are able to work and others are not, depending on whether their employers are deemed essential or nonessential.

"The sooner we can get back to work and get back to normal, we definitely need to do that," she said, noting that a sour economy takes a toll not only on people's pocketbooks but their mental health.

"We are a freedom-loving people who prefer to work and not have the government take care of us," she says. Williams added she wants graduating high school classes to hold ceremonies in person, if they "take precautions."

"These kids deserve their graduation," she says.

Williams said citizens need to be "respectful" of those who are at high risk, such as senior citizens and those with underlying conditions, "But for the majority of the population who can and want to work, I think we should get back to work."

Gonzalez echoed her stance, noting that the number of cases is stabilizing. He pointed to Eagle County, which obtained a state waiver and has the equivalent of 971 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people; El Paso County has 121 cases per 100,000.

"Eagle County has eight times as many as El Paso County, so it makes sense to seek a full exemption," he said, adding he was unhappy to see Polis join with West Coast states in its analysis of how to reopen business and government "rather than other states more similar to Colorado."

Resident Carolyn Martin called the stay-home orders "economic murder" adding, "The American way of life is being sold down the river. Businesses are being destroyed." She also said isolation can be more dangerous than the virus.

Another woman said, "Our rights shouldn't be violated because of a medical emergency," and another said, "If government is going by science, it's the wrong science. These policies are killing our economy."
click to enlarge One woman pleads with commissioners to end stay-home and safer-at-home orders. - BOCC MEETING VIDEO FEED
  • BOCC meeting video feed
  • One woman pleads with commissioners to end stay-home and safer-at-home orders.

One woman appeared in a princess costume representing her work doing live-action roleplaying with children. She said, "These kids need to get back together and be with their communities."

A homeschool band teacher, Marsha Brower, lamented Monument's cancellation of a summer parade. "I'm disappointed," she said. "There's really no basis for this. I really miss my students."

Kisa Hancock, who said she's an on-call nurse for UCHealth in Colorado Springs, said Memorial Hospitals have only 16 COVID patients currently, and that some patients requiring lifesaving cancer treatment are being sidelined for coronavirus patients. "Everybody matters, not just those who have the coronavirus," she says. "You have got to push the government to never let this happen again."

We've asked UCHealth to comment and will circle back with an update when we hear back.

Here's the response from UCHealth Memorial:
Despite what was said at today’s commission meeting, UCHealth has not delayed procedures that are necessary. All procedures are carefully reviewed by physicians on whether a delay can safely occur or if they need to be done. The nurse you mentioned is a PRN nurse and likely is not familiar with hospital operations, particularly during these past several weeks.

Another speaker recommended allowing businesses to determine what precautions they should take to protect their customers and employees. "Everybody's scared," he said, "so just give us the freedom to do it the way we know best."

It's unclear when the commission will act on a waiver application. The next COVID-19 update from Public Health will be at 9 a.m. Thursday.

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