Colorado Public Health Order: What it means, what the possible repercussions are and how can you report those not in compliance

Published: Mar. 20, 2020 at 6:17 PM MDT
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The following was shared from the Colorado Office of the Attorney General.

What is a public health order?

Under Colorado law, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has the authority to close theaters, schools, and other public places. The executive director also may forbid gatherings of people, or may seek isolation or quarantine of individuals, when necessary to protect the public health, and to investigate and control the causes of epidemic and communicable diseases affecting the public health.

Why are public health orders important?

The impact of a pandemic—such as that presented by COVID-19—can be best managed through limiting exposure to the virus. This imperative requires public health mandates that limit the situations where the virus can spread rapidly. By “social distancing,” and not operating establishments that bring people together, we will save lives, particularly of those most vulnerable to the virus, such as older residents.

Are residents and businesses required to follow a Public Health order

Yes. Any person who violates the order may be subject to civil and criminal penalties. Violation of a public health order is a misdemeanor and can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail. Individuals who violate the order may also be responsible for some costs of the health agencies in abating the cause of sickness, and could have a state license—such as a restaurant or liquor license revoked.Law enforcement has normal powers to address any criminal violations related to the order.

How can local law enforcement or local public health agencies enforce a Public Health order

Under Colorado law, counties and local public health agencies have the authority to administer and enforce the order. The State is recommending that local law enforcement and/or local public health agencies first reach out to the entity to seek voluntary compliance. However, local county attorneys or district attorneys can bring any civil or criminal action requested by the local public health director for a local violation of the order. A county attorney representing a local public health agency can seek a judge’s order in state court to force an individual or business to immediately comply with the order.

How can the State enforce a Public Health order

Under Colorado law, CDPHE has the authority to enforce the order. This may happen when a local public health agency is unable or unwilling to enforce the order. The Colorado Attorney General, representing CDPHE, can seek a judge’s order in state court to force an individual or business to immediately comply with the order or, where a district attorney is willing and able, can work with them to do so.

What can residents do if they suspect someone is violating a Public Health Order

Residents should first contact their local public health agency to report any potential violations of the order. Residents may also file a report with the Attorney General’s Office at if local law enforcement or a local public health agency is unresponsive.