'Don’t Mess with Colorado': Colorado's attorney general stands behind Gunnison County for public health order telling non-residents to leave

 Photo provided to 11 News by a non-resident with a home in Gunnison County.
Photo provided to 11 News by a non-resident with a home in Gunnison County. (KKTV)
Published: Apr. 9, 2020 at 8:12 PM MDT
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A Colorado county is ordering non-residents to leave and the attorney general for Texas is fighting back.

The latest amendment to Gunnison County's public health order tied to COVID-19 reads in part, "These amendments also prohibit all non-residents, including non-resident homeowners, from remaining in Gunnison County during the duration of this Order. The Public Health Director finds that non-residents, visitors and non-resident homeowners from lower altitudes are at a greater risk for complications from COVID-19 infection than residents, who are acclimatized to the high altitude environment of Gunnison County. The Public Health Director also finds that non-residents, regardless of whether they own a residence in Gunnison County, are imposing unnecessary burdens on health care, public services, first responders, food supplies and other essential services."

On Thursday, the attorney general for Texas wrote a letter to officials with the Gunnison County Department of Health and Human Services stating the order is unconstitutional.

“While I applaud several measures Gunnison County has taken to ensure the health and safety of its citizens, the banishment of nonresident Texas homeowners is entirely unconstitutional and unacceptable,” said Attorney General Paxton. “To unlawfully prevent Texans from inhabiting or enjoying property that they own, regardless of its location within the U.S., is a blatant violation of our Constitution.”

Colorado's attorney general put out a message on Friday stating he stands behind the order from officials in Gunnison County.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser released the following statement, with the title "Don’t Mess with Colorado: Attorney General Phil Weiser says Gunnison County public health order is constitutional and calls for collaborative problem solving":

“Gunnison County, like many Colorado mountain communities, faces a serious public health crisis because of COVID-19. Colorado law recognizes that, to protect their communities, local public health authorities are often best situated to make decisions and adopt and enforce public health orders based on their expertise and knowledge of local circumstances. Governor Polis’ stay-at-home executive order also specifically authorizes local government to adopt more stringent orders than the State. Gunnison County’s order applies equally to Colorado and non-Colorado residents who own second homes or are visiting in the community and seeks to address the needs of the community to respond to this pandemic. Any suggestion that their order violates the U.S. Constitution is misguided. To be sure, any order requiring people to travel from an area should be implemented equally to Coloradans and non-Coloradans and be managed in a sensitive and humane manner so as not to endanger any individuals residing in that community. In all events, however, local governments have the authority to adopt such an order based on their health needs under both Colorado law and the U.S. Constitution.”

Gunnison County has one of the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita.