El Paso County ready to take reins in the fight against the pandemic

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EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — Colorado plans to end the statewide COVID-19 Dial system next week and the El Paso County Board of Commissioners told FOX21 it’s time for them to decide what’s best for the county.

“I believe that we are in a position that we can start reopening up more fully for our businesses and our residents,” Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez, Jr. said.

As of now, the El Paso County is sitting under yellow on the state’s latest COVID-19 dial with a positivity rate at nearly 8%, nearby counties are also seeing similar trends.

“Well positivity numbers are just one aspect of the whole picture on how the county is doing and we’re seeing continuing positive trends overall especially in the vaccination level,” Gonzalez added.

The Governor’s Office is expected to release more information by next week. Gonzalez said commissioners collectively agree. Most recently, they issued a statement:

At this time, the Governor has not shared with us the specifics of his plan to return more public health decisions to local public health agencies. We look forward to a detailed dialog with the State on this concept. The Board of County Commissioners will NOT request the local public health agency to impose further restrictions, including mask mandates. We encourage the Governor to consider near-term and extensive return to local control. With extensive and rapidly growing vaccine delivery achieving over 250,000 doses administered today, healthy community support to stay safe, and many other local indicators, the Board of County Commissioners encourages the State to lift mandates to include mask mandates. As mandates are lifted, we ask the citizens of El Paso County to continue to make thoughtful choices for their health and that of the community. 

Public Health Director, Susan Wheelan, issued a letter to the business and community leaders on March 24th which stated in part, the following: “effective April 16, 2021, the State announced they will be allowing local public health control over COVID-19 business restrictions. Specifically, the State has indicated the “Dial” system will go to local control. While the State has not announced details on their plan, I am cautiously optimistic regarding this announcement. Based on El Paso County’s metrics and this community’s commitment to a safe and healthy COVID-19 response, I do not anticipate placing restrictions on capacity limits for businesses after April 16. If any targeted response is needed based on scientific data, I will individually address areas of concern.”

Commissioner Gonzalez went on to say the board stands by the County Health Department and businesses could still impose their own restrictions if they want.

“That local control should be given for the local authorities and individual businesses to make smart decisions to best protect the health of the public,” Gonzalez said.

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