Kremmling mayor compares county’s COVID-19 team to ‘panicked helicopter mom’
During public comments at Tuesday’s Grand County commissioners meeting, Kremmling’s mayor lambasted Grand County Public Health’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Grover Pryor claimed that Grand County Public Health has been inconsistent, hypocritical and biased against his town as he detailed some concerns about the enforcement of public health orders.
“Since COVID-19 started, the emails and appearances before the Grand County Commissioners by Grand County Public Health don’t sound like they come from medical professionals,” Pryor said. “They sound like they’re from a panicked helicopter mom.”
Pryor mostly focused on an email Grand County Medical Director Dr. Darcy Selenke sent Grand County commissioners on Nov. 5. The Sky-Hi News obtained the email in which Selenke characterized some of the Emergency Response Team’s worries about local COVID-19 case increases.
Specifically, the email said that Grand County Public Health and the Emergency Response Team believed that further enforcement of the state’s mask mandate and limits on gatherings was needed.
“Granby (police), Fraser/Winter Park (police) and (the Grand County Sheriff’s Office) are on board with enforcement of the laws in place and we will work on the plan in the next week,” Selenke wrote.
One of Pryor’s main criticisms came from a statement in the email asserting that new Kremmling Police Chief Hiram Rivera would start an educational campaign in his jurisdiction to promote compliance.
“This was not committed to by the town of Kremmling,” Pryor said. “My position is that the education in health matters is the job of Grand County Public Health, not our police department … These are not even elected officials and they’re making laws and asking for more enforcement of these laws.”
At the end of Selenke’s email, she proposes a statement on behalf of the county commissioners. In the statement, which was never released, the public would be asked to report those not following the public health orders to the county’s COVID violation phone number.
The proposed statement would have asked people to “hold other community members accountable when their actions jeopardize (the county’s) efforts to suppress COVID disease,” “hold people accountable when they get in the way of (Grand’s) recovery,” and “call (the county’s) ‘Keep Grand County Open’ line if you witness large gatherings or people who aren’t wearing their masks indoors.”
Grand County has had the hotline and an online portal to report public health order violations since March. Pryor labeled the number as a “tattletale hotline” and said it was a worrying example of public health’s overreach.
“It’s the most alarming thing I’ve ever heard of from a local government agency,” Pryor said.
Selenke’s email says that Winter Park, Fraser, Granby and Grand Lake agreed to release the statement Nov. 6. Neither those towns nor the BOCC have officially issued such a statement.
Pryor went on to say that public health was “only” focused on opening the ski area and that the agency showed “an inarguable bias and intentional divisiveness” toward Kremmling.
“I’ve lost confidence totally in Grand County Public Health,” Pryor said.
During the public health update to the commissioners, Selenke highlighted Colorado Title 25, which governs public health and environment. She read aloud the part of the statute related to health departments’ responsibilities and enforcement of related laws and orders.
“We are following the direction and the guidance of the law — nothing more,” Selenke said. “We do not and will not let any personal beliefs get in the way of the job we have been hired to do and that we are — by statute — ordered to do.”
Pryor said that he would direct Kremmling’s town manager to stop attending ERT meetings until changes are made to Grand County Public Health.
Following Selenke’s and Belew-LaDue’s COVID-19 update, a representative of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment recommended that Grand County implement stricter rules by moving to Level 3 on the state’s COVID-19 dial due to the increase in cases.
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The Grand County Sheriff’s Office fielded 185 calls from Feb. 21-27 while dispatchers answered 422 calls for all first-responder agencies in the county.