Colorado county threatens tourists with fines, jail time amid coronavirus crisis

A Colorado county is closing its doors to tourists amid the coronavirus outbreak, threatening anyone who violates a new public health order with up 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Gunnison County officials issued a public health order Friday barring non-residents and tourists from staying in the central Colorado community or to request a waiver to explain why they should be allowed to stay, according to the 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 order states.

Anyone who doesn’t live in the county is further “imposing unnecessary burdens” on health care, food supplies, first responders and other essential public services, the new directive reads.

“Accordingly, the presence of non-residents and visitors, including non-resident homeowners, is no longer permitted in Gunnison County in order to maintain public health and safety and to continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” it reads.

The public health order makes Gunnison County the first jurisdiction in the state to impose criminal charges for violating Colorado’s stay-at-home order, KREX reports.

“Our goal is to maintain the health and safety of our residents and the integrity of our health care system,” Gunnison County Emergency Operations Center spokesman Daniel Kreykeys told the outlet. “To that end, there’s some language in that health care order that allows for folks to apply for an exemption. We realize there are certain things going on with out residents that may require that. We want to give people that option, if needed.”

It’s unclear exactly how the order will be enforced, KREX reports.

County officials alerted residents to the new guidance on Facebook Thursday, telling would-be visitors and those with second homes to stay home.

“Help Gunnison County begin to sink the spike of positive COVID-19 tests by simply not visiting Gunnison County,” the post read. “We miss you. We value you. We can’t wait to see you again. Just please. Not until we begin to reverse the aggressive trend of this global pandemic in our neck of the woods.”

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