LONGMONT, Colo. — The mayor of Longmont does not want the city’s two hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients from Weld County or any other county that refuses to comply with state restrictions.
Mayor Brian Bagley has asked city council to consider a proposed resolution that would make it “unlawful for any hospital (or healthcare provider) to provide medical services to any resident of a county or municipality wherein their elected officials have refused to comply with the governor’s emergency orders so long as there is a resident of a county or municipality that does comply with the governor’s emergency orders needing access to Longmont hospitals (or general healthcare services, medications, PPE equipment, etc.).”
The mayor of the Boulder County city of Longmont drafted the proposed legislation in a letter to the city attorney and city manager on Tuesday. The letter is in response to Weld County Commissioners refusal to comply with Level Red restrictions placed upon the county by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
CDPHE announced Thursday that Weld County was among several other counties that would be moved to Level Red on the state’s COVID-19 dial. As of Thursday, Weld County has a two-week cumulative incidence rate of 1063.12 of 100,000 people, a percent positivity of 16.6% and a two-week COVID-19 case count of 3,442.
On Friday, the Weld County Board of Commissioners said the county would not be enforcing the state's mandate, stating in part, “The state’s decision to move Weld County into the red portion of the dial does not change the stance of the Weld County Board of Commissioners with regard to enforcement of the state’s mandates. Instead, county government continues to do what it has done since March, which is promote and encourage residents and business owners to take individual responsibility and make decisions to protect themselves, their families, their community and their businesses.”
In the letter, Mayor Bagley states that “Longmont may face limited hospital capacity in the future as a result of Weld County’s refusal to comply with the governor’s emergency orders.”
"Weld County has two hospitals. They’ve got 78 ICU beds, currently 76 of them are full. They’ve got two beds left. In other words, they have reached capacity," Mayor Bagley told Denver7. "At the same time, they continue to have parties, weddings, go out to dinner. And basically the Weld County commissioners have done nothing to encourage their constituents to – they need much more discipline.”
The mayor said Boulder County hospitals are currently treating 119 coronavirus patients, and said many of them are from Weld County.
"If we continue to not say something to Weld County, are beds will not be available," Bagley said.
Weld County commissioners responded Tuesday to Begley’s proposal, accusing the mayor of taking “a page out of Gov. Polis’ playbook.”
This Longmont mayor has taken a page out of Gov. Polis’ playbook by going after working families and compromising the mental wellbeing of the people who live in his community. The answer to this pandemic is not solely to close down small businesses the week of Thanksgiving; it is not to continually punish working-class families or the individuals who bag your groceries, wait on you in restaurants, deliver food to your home while you watch Netflix and chill; and it is certainly not to illegally deny healthcare to residents. But that is what this simple Mayor wants to do.
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.
Weld County Commissioner Kevin Ross told Denver7 that Bagley's proposal is a misuse of power.
“It’s frankly appalling to me, because I feel like it’s a gross misuse of your power and your authority,” Ross said.
It’s unclear if Bagley’s proposed ordinance would be legal or enforceable if passed. The federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) of 1986 guarantees patients nondiscriminatory access to emergency medical care.
“I don’t believe it to be legal. We’ve talked with our legal team here at the county,” Ross said.
By Wednesday evening, Bagley issued a follow-up statement, saying his comments were not intended to exclude any of the residents that straddle both counties. His full statement is below:
As elected officials, we have a responsibility to the people who elected us and to the laws of the land. We take on the responsibility (and occasionally, the notoriety) of our office in the solemn oath to “support the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Colorado, the laws of the State of Colorado,” as well as the local laws of our municipalities and counties. During a public health crisis such as the one we are facing on a global scale with COVID-19, the state’s public health orders carry the force of law, and we are therefore beholden by our oaths to uphold them. That is our job.
When I called out our neighboring county and its elected officials for publicly refusing to enforce the law, I did so out of concern for all of Longmont’s residents who are impacted by the poor decisions of some individuals and the public officials who are failing to do their duty to uphold the laws that are being put in place to protect us all, regardless of party loyalty, political conviction, or county of residence.
Longmont is a better city for its diversity and the inclusion of portions of two counties within its municipal boundary. My comments were not intended to exclude any of our residents, but rather to shine a light on the importance of acting in a unified way to protect our healthcare systems, and to keep our community healthy and our businesses open.
I also felt it incumbent upon me to shine a light on how one group’s refusal to act in the public interest impacts us all, and to compel my fellow elected officials to examine how we can do better to keep our word to our electors and our office.
Now that I have succeeded in bringing this issue to light, and now that people are aware of how Weld County’s decisions are affecting people in Longmont, I will not pursue an ordinance or denial of healthcare. My desire is to work with Weld County to ensure they comply with the lawful emergency orders so that we can all move forward in a positive and responsible manner. I will be discussing this matter with my fellow council members next week to explore solutions. And I will continue to advocate that we all respect, apply, and enforce the laws of the state of Colorado – regardless of which side of County Line Road we reside on — and that we collectively support the efforts of our public health agencies to protect lives and livelihoods in our cities, counties, state, and beyond.
Sincerely,Brian J. Bagley