Local law enforcement clarifies statewide "stay at home" order


Mandatory stay-at-home orders from the governor may have some imagining roadblocks and officers pulling people over asking for proof showing that what they are doing is essential, but local law enforcement say they will not go that route.

Under the orders, residents who suspect someone is in violation should contact their local public health department, who can then refer it to the proper law enforcement channel, be it the Ouray County Sheriff’s Office, Ouray Police Department or Ridgway Marshal’s Office. Click here to read the order.

Ouray County Health Department Director Tanner Kingery had a meeting with Unified Command on Thursday morning, after the order was issued from the state. He discussed this order with representatives from the Town of Ridgway and City of Ouray, as well as County Emergency Manager Glenn Boyd, and each entity of the county decided they would keep enforcement complaint-driven.

“No one’s going to get pulled over asking for their papers,” Kingery said.

Kingery expressed confidence in county citizens’ voluntary compliance and social buy-in, but said if someone is a consistent problem they could be fined.

“We are not going to be antagonizing anybody,” Undersheriff Ted Wolfe said, adding that the sheriff’s office has had no issue so far enforcing previous orders from the county and state, and he expects none with the new orders.

Currently Wolfe is working on touching base with lodgers in the county, ensuring they are following county-issued overnight lodging restrictions, which limits lodging to long-term and essential business.

Ridgway Marshal Shane Schmalz sees his office’s role as educational, and said he does not want to violate anyone’s rights.

“If someone is being obviously defiant, we will take appropriate action,” Schmalz said.

Schmalz does not have any concerns, however as, “Ridgway has been really quiet.”

Schmalz said he considers the playground at Hartwell Park a “gray area." However, the state order specifically states playgrounds should be closed, as they present a risk for transmission. Some residents have raised concerns about keeping the playground open. Deputies may attempt to educate people who use the playground, but will not force them to leave. Click here to read the FAQs which include details about playgrounds.

Ouray Police Chief Jeff Wood said he and his officers plan to enforce the governor's order on a case-by-case basis.

"We will be evaluating the safety of the public in general against the rights of the individual," he said. "We're really pushing voluntary compliance so that we're utilizing our public safety resources most efficiently."

Wood said he is comfortable with all of the public health orders issued thus far. He is loathe, however, to try to carefully regulate how people move and gather.

"I have concerns about over-exuberance of enforcements of those activities," he said, adding that he doesn't want to go down the rabbit hole of trying to answer "what-if" scenarios.

He said police will take an educational approach if they find children and families on playgrounds, letting them know they are risking exposing themselves and others to illness, because scientific research shows COVID-19 can live on hard surfaces for several days. If that approach doesn't work, he said he'll likely consult with Kingery and see about taking official action to close playgrounds. Right now, though, he isn't planning on putting up any type of barricade around the playground at Fellin Park.

The county also has an order in place limiting gatherings to 10 people, providing that there is at least 6 feet between those people for safe space to avoid spreading germs.


Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect playgrounds are closed according to the state's guidelines.