LONGMONT, Colo. (KDVR) — The mayor of Longmont said he wants hospitals to refuse treatment to COVID-19 patients from places not enforcing the state’s restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
In a letter sent Tuesday, Mayor Brian Bagley directed the city manager and city attorney to prepare an ordinance that would make it illegal for any hospital or health care provider to treat a resident of a county or municipality where officials have refused to comply with Gov. Jared Polis’ emergency orders.
“Longmont must protect its hospitals so as to guarantee that they will be able to provide adequate medical treatment for its residents when needed, and not be pushed beyond their capacity,” Bagley wrote.
In his letter, Bagley notes the rapidly rising COVID-19 hospitalization in Weld County. As of last week, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 45 out of 48 intensive care unit beds in Weld County were in use.
Bagley also said Weld County “uses Longmont’s available hospital capacity, at least in part, as a reason to refuse to comply with the governor’s emergency orders.
Longmont is located in both Weld and Boulder counties.
Last week, the CDPHE moved Weld County straight from “Level Yellow” to “Level Red” restrictions (bypassing Orange). The CDPHE said the stricter measures were imposed after it requested a COVID-19 mitigation plan from Weld County on Nov. 3 but did not receive one. Since then, the county’s positivity rate rose from roughly 11% to about 16%. Additionally, the number of new cases reported over a two-week period more than doubled from 1,479 to 3,442.
In response to moving to Level Red, Weld County commissioners then issued a statement saying the county will not enforce the new restrictions. It encouraged residents and businesses to make decisions they felt were best for them.
On Tuesday, Weld County commissioners issued a new statement condemning Bagley’s remarks. They said the mayor has “taken a page out of Gov. Polis’ playbook” and they defended their earlier statement about not enforcing stricter guidelines. The statement said, in part:
“Weld County’s statement about promoting personal responsibility and not enforcing mandates has been woefully misunderstood by those living in fear and wishing to be governed by intimidation. Weld County is not an “anything goes” county, it is a “make the best decisions for yourself and your business” county, because we trust our residents to do what is best for themselves, their families, their businesses and their community. If the mandates put in place months ago worked, why are the numbers going up all along the Front Range?
“Mayor Bagley is looking for someone/something to blame. Hear this: Weld County is not the problem.
“It’s very easy for Mayor Bagley to sit in his office, still collecting a paycheck, and release an edict that denies equal protection of the law to the very people who shop and work in Longmont, and whose children attend Longmont schools.”
Since the start of the pandemic, 12,519 people in Weld County have tested positive for COVID-19 and 188 have died from the virus, according to state data.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office issued the following statement:
“You’re either on the side of the virus or on the side of Coloradans. Deadly COVID cases are spiraling out of control statewide and we must do better. There are only 3 ICU beds left open in the county. To undermine – with no real authority – the state’s efforts to save lives ultimately amounts to dangerous freeloading and jeopardizes lives, small businesses, and jobs.”
In response to the governor’s statement, Weld County commissioners said:
“The statement by the Governor once again shows his disdain for Coloradans. In Weld County, we are on the side of working men and women who have a responsibility to provide for their families and children. We are on the side of businesses who provide jobs and an opportunity for economic stability. We are disappointed that the Governor continues with his COVID shaming instead of understanding the mental distress this virus has thrusted on all Coloradans.”
Centura Health, which operates Longmont United Hospital and other facilities in the area, also sent a statement via email about the mayor’s proposal:
“COVID-19 cases continue to increase across our state and Centura’s Longmont United Hospital remains confident in our ability to care for all patients in our community. As part of our Mission, we care for all patients who need health care, whether they present with COVID-19 symptoms or present with other medical conditions in our hospital and other care settings, and care is not determined based on geography, ability to pay, gender, race, medical condition, or citizenship. We hope to be able to continue to do this and we will monitor the Mayor’s request to City Council.“