The Delta County Republican Central Committee violated Colorado’s 10-person limit on gatherings during its May 5 meeting.
The meeting, held at the small non-denominational Surface Creek Community Church in Austin, was promoted in a committee email prior to the event. The notice sent out to local Republicans did not make reference to the 10-person limit or advise attendees to wear masks or practice social distancing.
Roger Bentley, committee chairman, reported in a group email on May 7 that 33 persons attended the meeting including two unnamed elected officials. In addition to hosting three times the approved number of persons, Bentley said attendees began the evening practicing social distancing and wearing masks, but later relaxed their stance.
“As the meeting progressed, it was apparent that the people became relaxed as evidenced by seeing most masks disappvear. By the end of the meeting, some people even shook hands, stood next to each other, and a few even hugged.”
In a phone interview, Bentley declined to name the elected officials saying they did not want their names listed in the reporting.
“We talked to them and they suggested that they didn’t need to be exposed or they didn’t need to take credit for anything,” said Bentley, stating confidentiality as a reason for not releasing the names.
The Delta County Independent requested a copy of the attendance sheet from the meeting. Bentley said the secretary was late to the meeting, but he would try to provide the list. It was not available by DCI press time.
In a follow-up conversation, Bentley told the DCI that he contacted the two officials and Commissioner Mike Lane was willing to be identified. The second official was contacted by voicemail but did not respond by DCI press deadline. Bentley restated that social distancing was practiced during the meeting and that adequate space was available.
“We had a really good turnout, 33 people there and we had a big auditorium, a big room, so people were spaced accordingly,” said the party chairman dodging the main issue, saying there was “a hole in that bucket” referring to the governor’s 10 person restriction.
Karen O’Brien, Delta County Public Health Director, reaffirmed that the county is under the state 10 person limit per gathering at this time.
“We are following the governor’s orders of 10 gathering or less so, we don’t have any exemptions to that at the moment and we do ask everyone to wear a face covering as well,” she said.
O’Brien said the health department will reach out to the Delta County GOP Central Committee to notify it of the violation based on Bentley’s May 7 email.
“Anytime we get a concern or complaint from a citizen, we follow up. We have an order that we’re following, so it’s concerning and we will be following up. We get this all the time, and we appreciate it because we can’t be out there and see everything. We definitely want to know that everything is in place to be safe and protect people, so we want to make sure it’s being followed,” she said.
According to Bentley, most attendees at the meeting were concerned about how the county will proceed to open businesses and get the economy back up and running. A number of Delta County citizens are becoming more frustrated with the state’s covid-19 policies. Two citizens voiced their concerns during the board of commissioner meeting on May 6.
Delta County’s three Republican commissioners approved the state ‘safer-at-home’ plan endorsed by Governor Jared Polis and the CDPHE which began on April 27. The policy calls for continued limiting of gatherings to 10 persons and reinforces the need for at least 6 feet of social distancing.
County commissioners with the support of the health department and the hospital filed for a variance to the safer-at-home policy on May 11 following a special meeting of the Delta County Board of Health. In that meeting leaders discussed a proposed variance to the governor’s executive order and CDPHE orders for Delta County.
As part of the requested Delta County variance, places of worship would be allowed to open with 30% occupancy but with no more than 50 participants. Congregants will be required to practice six feet social distancing at all times.
O’Brien said the intent of the variance is “to be able to hold church services for the congregation, not hold meetings in a church.” She said once the variance is approved, they will provide guidance documents that will ‘hopefully’ address questions about other types of meetings held in churches.