BOULDER COUNTY, CO — Most Boulder County residents and businesses are following public health orders, yet some continue to defy the required precautions, public health officials said. Over the past two weeks, parties have been reported in and around the University of Colorado Boulder campus, and some businesses in the county have been found in violation of the orders.
Residents and businesses can face Class 1 misdemeanor charges if they are found willfully violating orders. If accepted by the district attorney and law enforcement, a lawsuit can be launched by Boulder County Public Health that requests a court order for the person, group or business to comply with the public health rules.
If the restraining order is violated, fines and other sanctions can be imposed.
Jeff Zayach, the agency’s executive director, said their goal is to “help individuals and businesses follow the public health orders to stop this virus, not to impose fines or take people to court.”
“It’s a slow and intensive process that is stretching our resources,” he said.
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A suit is the last resort, often after multiple violation notices have been issued, the agency said.
“We are in very close communication with our law enforcement partners and the DA’s office,” Zayach said.
“They ultimately make the decision about criminal charges while we at the county can pursue civil charges or fines.”
Before filing a case in court, Boulder County Public Health staff will first notify the person or business that they have committed, or may have committed, a violation of public health orders. The staff will explain the public health order requirements and how they can come into compliance, and let them know that future violations will result in legal action against them, the agency said. If violations continue, staff may send an additional warning.
The decision to escalate a violation to civil enforcement is based on the nature of the violations (e.g. flagrant, repeat, etc.) and level of proof that the violations occurred (e.g. multiple complaints from different people, photos, videos, police reports, other forms of documented observations), health officials said.
As of Wednesday, more than 2,300 Boulder County residents have been infected with the virus, and 79 people have died from complications due to the disease, according to the latest public health data. Nearly 200 patients have been hospitalized.
The city of Boulder can use its nuisance property abatement process to take action against property owners if violations occur on their land. If the violations continue, the owners could have their rental license revoked and their tenants could face eviction.
The University of Colorado Boulder has updated its student code of conduct to prohibit violation of public health orders.
Boulder County Public Health gathers information about violations from community members who call the public health call center at 720-776-0822 or complete the online report a concern form. The agency can also witness the violations themselves. Public health staff follow up on violations that law enforcement is investigating to ensure those involved understand the public health orders, and the staff also documents the violation in case civil enforcement action is needed in the future.
Boulder County Public Health of course isn’t the only Colorado public health agency that faces legal action — Jeffco Public Health launched a lawsuit against the Bandimere Speedway earlier this summer after the business was found violating public health orders, health officials said. The racetrack has now launched its own lawsuit over the orders.
This article originally appeared on the Boulder Patch