Jefferson County issues a stay-at-home order effective Thursday

Order comes as Adams, Douglas, Boulder and other counties do the same

Staff report
Posted 3/25/20

Jefferson County's response to the pandemic threat of COVID-19 ramped up today, with a countywide order for residents to shelter in place, only leaving their houmes for essential activities, work and …

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Jefferson County issues a stay-at-home order effective Thursday

Order comes as Adams, Douglas, Boulder and other counties do the same

Posted

UPDATE: Jefferson County's Stay-at-home-order has been extended to May 8

Jefferson County's response to the pandemic threat of COVID-19 ramped up today, with a countywide order for residents to stay at home, only leaving their residences for essential activities, work and services. 

The order is effective Thursday, March 26 at 8 a.m. The order requires all individuals anywhere in Jefferson County to stay at home (also known as shelter in place) aside from those activities that are exempted. The order is in place until April 17, 2020, although it’s possible it may be extended, canceled or otherwise modified.

The Jefferson County announcement was done in conjunction with two other Denver metro area public health departments, covering Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson and Boulder counties — effectively putting most of the metro area under such restrictions as Denver's order continues and the state government leaves the decision to localities.

The orders allow people to leave home for "essential activities," such as to shop for groceries, obtain medical supplies or medication, go to the doctor, or walk or exercise outdoors.

County sees exponential increase in cases, first death

On Wednesday, JCPH announced that the number of COVID cases In Jefferson County had increased by 12 over night and 26 since Monday, although it did not provide an official count. The county’s official online count of confirmed cases was at 73 when it was last updated on Monday, suggesting that the total number of cases in Jefferson County is now around 100.

“These numbers show that in an exponential increase in the number of cases is occurring in our community,” Billings said.

Christine Billings, JCPH’s COVID-19 Incident Commander, also announced that the county had seen its first death from COVID-19. Billings described the person as being in their 60s and having experienced “known health complications.”  

The stay-at-home order announced by Jeffco, and the other health agencies extends a week longer than the order the City and County of Denver adopted March 23, which requires everyone in that city to stay at home except to leave for “essential activities," generally the same as the five counties' new order. They all allow for collecting supplies to work from home. Getting food by take-out, drive-thru or from food banks and pantries is also allowed by the six counties' new order.

The order allows for workers in various industries considered “essential businesses” — a long list including health care, infrastructure, utilities, grocery stores, liquor stores, agriculture, restaurants, banks, news media and many more — to leave home to work. Individuals can also leave home to obtain services at those businesses.

The order also permits individuals to recreate outdoors. However, all outdoor activity must be done individually or in groups of four people or less with all participants complying with social distancing requirements.

Mark B. Johnson, the Executive Director of JCPH, said in a press briefing that the four people or less requirement was added following continued sightings of large groups of people gathered for outdoor recreation. Recreation facilities that encourage larger gatherings, such as tennis courts, will be locked or otherwise made inaccessible.

Leaving home to go to educational institutions to collect materials for online class or other remote learning — or to receive meals — is also allowed under the order.

The order includes an exemption for gun stores. That change was made to make sure the rule does not interfere with constitutional rights and prevent runs on those stores in advance of the order to take effect.

Those experiencing homelessness are also exempt from the order. However, they are strongly urged to seek out shelter with governmental entities strongly encouraged to provide shelter to those experiencing homelessness.

Lack of necessary social distancing behind order, JCPH director says 

Johnson said that JCPH decided to move forward with the order after reviewing the amount of social distancing going on in the community.

“It was obvious that the public was not taking this seriously enough for us to turn the curve from the high rate of increase and to get a handle on what is happening with this,” he said.

According to Johnson, there will not be law enforcement officers or individuals from JCPH on the streets confronting individuals and asking why they are there and if they have proof for what they are doing.

Instead, JCPH hopes the order will get people to stay home as much as possible, particularly those who have not been doing so previously, and serve as an “education tool” to inform the public about the seriousness of COVID-19 and the need to limit exposure to others.

“Most of the enforcement we believe will be by people learning what they need to do and doing it,” Johnson said. “There also will be some social enforcement. You will probably have people telling you that you shouldn’t be doing that, which is something we see with other public health orders like smoking bans.”

However, the order does give the county to levy fines and even put people in prison if they are not following it and Johnson said the county could look to use those enforcement tools if it finds there are “very serious problems with people flaunting the order or business that are refusing to close that we feel need to close.”

Michael Taplin, the Public Information Officer for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, said Wednesday afternoon that the Sherriff’s Office will be meeting with leaders from other law enforcement agencies to figure out how the order should be handled.

“Until then we urge all people to comply with the order,” Taplin said in an email.

Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul expressed support for the order and said his community will follow it.

“From my perspective, there has been an urge by the Governor to follow these guidelines, and I think that folks weren’t taking it seriously,” he said. “So now, there is an even more restrictive declaration that has been given down. Let’s follow it the best we can, try to get through this, and then we can look at how we try to rebuild.”

The full order can be viewed online at Jeffco.us/CivicAlerts. The county website went down after the announcement of the order but has since gone back online.

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