Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and Sheriff Steve Reams told conservative KCOL radio host Jimmy Lakey last week they were unhappy with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis for tightening public health guidelines for their northern Colorado county.
Both Kirkmeyer and Reams made it clear that they would not be enforcing the new restrictions in Weld County.
Kirkmeyer voiced her frustration with the governor as well as Jill Hunsaker Ryan, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
Specifically, Kirkmeyer stated that she was confused by the health order, claiming that in a meeting between Polis and the county commissioners the day before Weld County moved to the level orange, the governor praised the county for how it was handling the public health crisis.
“He told us that counties move themselves on the dial, not the state. And he agreed with us about personal responsibility and that we were doing a good job, but it was pretty apparent in our conversation with him that he’s not actually very aware of how counties operate,” said Kirkemeyer. “I mean, let’s take that he started off the conversation by welcoming the new commissioners elect, who don’t even take office until January, and were not at the meeting [laughs].”
“He said, it’s the counties that get to make this determination and that we are going to work with you,” Kirkmeyer continued. “And then basically we just get a call from Jill Ryan, she called the commissioners and told us they were moving us.”
One of the state’s concerns regarding Weld County is that the county may not have enough hospital resources to accommodate a surge of COVID-19.
Kirkmeyer argued against this in her interview, stating that the health officials aren’t looking at the big picture—because many Weld County residents leave the county for medical care, whether that means going to Longmont or even going to Wyoming or Nebraska.
That plan, however, could be in peril. Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley announced this week that he wants the city’s two hospitals to restrict care to Weld County residents for as long as the county refuses to obey the state’s orders.
Legal experts are unsure, however, if this is an enforceable or legal action to take, since it could interfere with medical ethics which require medical professionals to care for anyone in need, despite factors such as geography.
Unexpectedly moving Weld County’s status isn’t Kirkemeyer’s only grievance with the governor—she also took issue with the fact that Polis has decided to navigate the pandemic through the health department rather than through emergency management.
“[Polis] flip flops all over the place. And quite frankly, the reason we’re all in this place anyway where he’s passing these orders left and right is that, it’s kind of like ‘the order of the day’ kind of a thing—these are decisions made by Jared Polis, and it’s the way he’s managing this emergency,” Kirkmeyer said. “And I’m not going to go so far as to say that he’s doing a horrible job because I don’t think that, but I think the problem is he’s managing this pandemic—this emergency—through his health department instead of through his emergency management operations, and all the plans put in place.”
Reams agrees with Kirkmeyer.
Reams told Lakey that he would, under no circumstances, be enforcing these health orders, because they aren’t civil orders issued by the health department—and therefore enforced by the health department.
“This isn’t a body of law that law enforcement engages with. These are public health laws, or public health orders,” Reams said. “I think that’s where people get confused. Just because it’s a law in Colorado doesn’t mean it’s an enforcement angle that I can take, nor do you really want that to be the case. I mean, you have building codes, you don’t really have sheriffs out inspecting buildings. Health codes are kind of the same thing. That’s an issue for the health department to go and figure out.”
Reams and Kirkmeyer also heavily criticized the state for its mitigation processes.
Reams stated that some of the public health measures in place “just don’t make sense,” such as wearing masks despite an increasing rate of infection, or closing businesses when much of the spread occurs at home gatherings.
Kirkmeyer honed in on what she sees as the state’s lack of preparedness:
“[The state’s] mitigation process is, I think it’s totally out of whack. And you know, that is the fault of our governor. Let’s get going, you know? Putting out guidance when we’re well into this, and then acting like you’re going to cure the virus, said Kirkmeyer. “We’re not curing this virus. I mean, has anyone looked at level green? When does the governor think we’re going to get to level green? Is that going to happen in two months? Or is he basically hiding that from everybody, and is that two years from now?”
This isn’t the first time Kirkmeyer has attacked Polis.
Earlier this year, during her successful campaign for state senator, she posted a cartoon attacking Polis. In the cartoon’s caption, she wrote she will “be Jared Polis’s worst nightmare.”
Kirkmeyer and Reams’ pushback against the new health orders come after the Board of Weld County Commissioners sent out an official statement stating that they would not be enforcing level orange in their county, but will instead continue to “promote and encourage residents and business owners to take individual responsibility and make decisions to protect themselves, their families, their community and their businesses.”
According to 9News report Nov. 16, the state could seek enforcement of Weld County’s level orange dial by going through the Attorney General, the District Attorney, and/or by having the CDPHE withhold funding to the county.