Headlines November 25, 2020

Headlines November 25, 2020

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Polis Warns Businesses over Refusals to Comply with COVID-19 Restrictions

Governor Jared Polis warned Colorado yesterday that their refusal to comply with COVID-19 restrictions could result in the loss of their licenses.

At an afternoon press conference, Polis said that new cases of infections appear to have stabilized in the last few days, with one in every 41 residents of the state being contagious.

However, hospitalizations have continued to increase, and more than one-third of hospitals report they are short-staffed.

The Denver Post reports that currently, 22 counties are in Level Red on the state’s COVID -19 Dial, including most of the Front Range. Most businesses can operate at only 25 percent of capacity with gyms and offices limited to 10 percent. Indoor dining is prohibited.

Polis said the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment can suspend or revoke the licenses of restaurants that don’t take steps to avoid spreading diseases.

Weld County commissioners are defying the governor. They say they won’t enforce the Level Red restrictions, and some business owners in Larimer County announced yesterday morning that they would ignore new restrictions when their county is moved to the higher level. Polis says businesses that fail to observe the new rules could lose their license.

9News reports that five restaurants in Douglas County were forced to close on Monday after the Tri-County Health Department said they violated public health orders by allowing dine-in service. Douglas County is one of the counties that has been moved to the stricter category.

The establishments were ordered to remain closed until the health department determines they are in compliance with the Level Red order.

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state’s epidemiologist, said yesterday that it’s too early to be sure if the lower cases of infections in recent days are a sustained trend; but even if they are, she said it’s still important to avoid gatherings with people who don’t live with you and to wear a mask and stay six feet from others when you leave home.

Longmont Mayor Proposes Resiticting Medical Services to Weld County Residents 

Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley wants the city to restrict the ability of its two hospitals to provide medical services to residents of Weld County as long as that county’s commissioners refuse to enforce the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

The Times Call reports that it’s not clear the city can legally impose such a restriction.

In an email, Bagley directed staff to prepare an ordinance that would make it illegal for Longmont United Hospital or UCHealth’s Longs Peak Hospital to provide medical services to any resident of a county or municipality where their elected officials have refused to comply with the governor’s emergency orders.

The mayor’s limitation would apply when a resident from a jurisdiction that does comply with health orders needs access to Longmont hospitals.

Bagley wrote that Longmont has complied with the governor’s orders and has

hospital beds and medical staff available; but, he said, Weld county points to that availability to suggest they can be used in the event Weld hospitals reach capacity.

A hospital’s refusal of emergency care may violate a federal law dating back more than thirty years.

Mayor Bagley, who is an attorney, said that he is raising the issue because the impacts of Weld County’s noncompliance with the state orders has the potential of damaging Longmont’s hospital systems.

Boulder County Virus Deaths and Infections Update

Boulder County recorded two new deaths and 152 new coronavirus cases Tuesday as hospitalizations remain at a record high of 119. According to a health department spokesperson, the two recorded deaths were of residents both in their 80s.

Polis Announces “Back-to-School Task Force”

At his press conference yesterday, Polis announced he has established a “back-to-school task force” to help districts offer as much uninterrupted in-person learning as possible in the second semester. Most districts have shifted to virtual instruction as COVID-19 cases rise.

The governor said that schools are one of the safer public places even while Colorado is at a height of infection.

Chalkbeat reports that the task force will meet for the first time today and Polis said it will work with parents, educators, school board members, and public health officials to look at protocols and “examples of what works.” He did not offer details about members or the process of selecting them.

The state does not have a statewide strategy for opening or closing schools during the pandemic. Instead, each district makes its own decision based on guidance from state education and local public health officials.  Polis said the task force is an attempt to “be more hands-on” in providing support to school districts.

Denver Health Employees Sue Over Alleged Retaliation Against Systemic Racism Claims

Some employees at Denver Health have filed a lawsuit alleging that the medical center retaliated against them for raising concerns about systemic racism and for speaking to the media about their experiences related to COVID-19.

The Denver Post reports that the complaint claims that on at least three occasions employees were reprimanded for speaking out about the challenges of responding to the pandemic. Denver Health reprimanded an employee for speaking to Colorado Public Radio

The complaint was filed under the Whistleblower Protection Public Health Emergencies act, a new state law which prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against workers who raise concerns about health and safety practices, who wear their own personal protective equipment, or who oppose a practice they consider unlawful.

The lawsuit also alleges that when a physician attended an event called “White Coats for Black Lives,” she was told that funding for Denver Health’s At Risk and Mentoring program would be cut.

Denver Health said in a statement that it has policies in place to protect employees from retaliation if they raise concerns about the work environment and that it supports employees bringing forward concerns related to racism.

Lawsuits Threatened over Police Misconduct During Summer Protests

The City of Denver may be facing more than 50 lawsuits for alleged misconduct by police officers during this summer’s protests against racial injustice and police brutality.

The Denverite reports that yesterday the city received notices of the claims about excessive force and illegal arrests. The notices are the first step toward pursuing a lawsuit against a government. Sometimes they are settled, but often they go to court.