San Juan County implements 'locals only' policy

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San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad this afternoon announced a "locals only" policy, effectively asking anyone who isn't a county resident to leave and requesting local residents to quarantine themselves.

In a statement posted on the sheriff's office's Facebook page, Conrad said San Juan County's geographic isolation gives the county a chance to be less impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that minimizing exposure to the larger world and sensibly limiting residents' own interactions helps achieve that objective. At the same time, he said, the community has the potential to be hit "very hard" should the virus be transmitted through the community.

"With these thoughts in mind, The San Juan County Sheriff is implementing 'Locals Only' policy, prohibiting all but essential services, HWY 550 drive through traffic, and San Juan County residents only," the statement read.

Conrad said the limitation applies to all San Juan County lands because backcountry skiers and snowmobilers unnecessarily increase the potential for emergency and medical team response. He said vehicles parked on mountain passes and all county roads not registered in San Juan County are subject to fines and towing.

"These are not extreme measures in these extraordinary times, and we are not the first community to enact them. It is not a cavalier decision made without regard for our economy or for the well-being of our citizens. It is in fact, our well-being at stake here," the sheriff wrote in the post.

Conrad said travel around the county should be limited to "obtaining necessities" or "solo or small party exercise outings."

The order comes one day after Ouray County Public Health Director Tanner Kingery issued a trio of orders shuttering lodging facilities in the county, closing businesses that offer non-essential personal services and limiting mass gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced this afternoon 112 new coronavirus cases and two additional deaths, bringing the total cases statewide to 475 and the number of deaths to 5. Residents in 29 of Colorado's 64 counties have tested positive. Ouray County has no confirmed positive cases, although health officials say they are operating as though the virus is in the county.