Colorado’s attorney general fired off two more coronavirus-related cease-and-desist letters this week, this time aiming to stomp out plans for upcoming concerts at a Weld County horse-racing center.
The latest letters — the 33th and 34th cease-and-desist letters sent by Attorney General Phil Weiser during the pandemic to enforce Gov. Jared Polis’ executive orders — are targeting Adixion Music in Denver and Imperial Horse Racing Facility.
The company has reportedly been hosting large events and has been selling tickets to at least two upcoming concerts, on Aug. 8 and Aug. 16, at Imperial Horse Racing Facility near Pierce.
“It appears that hundreds or thousands of people are expected to be in attendance at these events,” states the letter from W. Eric Kuhn, senior assistant attorney general, noting that Adixion is in “direct violation” of a June 1 executive order that bans group gatherings larger than 175 people.
The upcoming concerts were advertised online and with a Facebook post touting five Mexican bands, including Los Rieleros del Norte, based in El Paso, Texas, and Los Pescadores del Rio Conchos, based in Dallas. The post says in Spanish that face masks are required to enter the concert and that social-distancing rules apply.
The second letter is addressed to the owners of Imperial Horse Racing, also ordering them to call off the concerts. The owners of Adixion and Imperial Horse Racing did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
The Aug. 3 letters are the first step in getting a business or person to comply with the order, attorney general’s spokesman Lawrence Pacheco said. If the person or business does not comply, the attorney general would seek a cease-and-desist order signed by a judge.
The letters say the music company and venue must either call off the concerts or respond by Wednesday describing how they plan to hold a concert within the bounds of the executive order.
The governor’s order, part of the current “Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors” phase of the pandemic, allows outdoor events of up to 175 people but requires use of a “social distancing space calculator” to make sure that each person has at least 6 feet of space.
Counties can seek a variance from the order, but Weld County has not done so. Weld County has had 3,552 people infected with coronavirus, giving it the 13th highest per-capita infection rate out of 64 counties, according to the latest state health department data.
The conservative county has been at odds politically for months with the Democratic governor’s executive orders, including the statewide mask mandate Polis put in place July 16. The next day, Weld County commissioners posted a letter on their website announcing that the county would not enforce the order and that the governor “does not have legal authority through an executive order or by other means to require citizens to wear masks.”
The Weld County Sheriff’s Office also said it does not have authority to enforce the governor’s executive orders but that its own employees are wearing masks and encouraging others to do so.
And this week’s cease-and-desist order wasn’t the first the Attorney General’s Office sent to a Weld County event promoter. Last week, the state’s top law enforcement official sent one to Live Entertainment in Eaton. That letter, which accused the company of holding at least two events with as many as 5,000 people, came after a concert held on rural, private property.
The Weld County Sheriff’s Office heard about the event a couple of days in advance and tracked down the property owners, who lived elsewhere, the office said. When those owners found out about the event, it was canceled.
But the concert promoters changed venues — to another piece of rural, private property a few miles away. Sheriff’s deputies did not find out about that event until people started calling to complain about heavy traffic and a loud party as cars lined up on a county road, the sheriff’s office said.
Weld County does not have a permitting process for large events, so there was no paperwork filed ahead of time alerting authorities about the concert.
The friction between the Republican-led county and state officials has been building throughout the pandemic, as Polis has issued executive orders to shut down businesses and require people to stay home.
“Weld County incorrectly believes that we don’t have the ability to do anything,” the governor said during a news conference last week. “It turns out we do.”
Polis compared going to the last month’s mass gathering in Weld County to driving drunk.
“I want to say the blame is not entirely on Weld County commissioners or Weld County Sheriff,” he said. “It’s also on those 3,000 or 4,000 people that made a bad decision to put themselves and others at risk by going to that kind of mass event. It is akin to drunk driving. You are not just taking a risk for yourself.
“No law can force Coloradans to do the right thing,” he said, “but Coloradans should want to do the right thing.”
Several other county health departments are enforcing the orders, however.
The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, for example, has issued dozens of citations and thousands of warnings related to the safe-at-home and mask orders.
Other cease-and-desist letters from the attorney general include a July 2 document sent to Andrew Wommack Ministries in Woodland Park. The Christian ministry hosted a multi-day summer family Bible conference on its Teller County campus that was attended by several hundred people.
And now the Bible camp is tied to a COVID-19 outbreak. Among staff at the camp, 22 have confirmed cases of the virus and three have suspected cases. In addition, 16 people who attended the camp now have the virus, according to the latest outbreak list from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The staff at the conference were required to wear masks and screened for COVID-19 symptoms, according to Mat Staver, a spokesman for Wommack Ministries and chairman of Liberty Counsel. Guests, however, were only encouraged to wear masks and socially distance themselves, via signs posted at entrances, he said.
The Bible camp conducted health screenings in the line of cars as guests arrived on the property, Staver said, noting that “every car was stopped, and asked health questions and temperatures taken.” Seats were marked 6 feet apart, and offering buckets were left at the front of the room instead of being passed around for donations, he said.
After the outbreak, Wommack Ministries decided not to host another July event on its property. “The sponsor moved that event off campus to another county,” Staver said in an emailed response to The Colorado Sun. An August event was moved online.
An April 1 cease-and-desist letter to Hobby Lobby CEO David Green said the company had reopened its Colorado stores in violation of the state’s stay-at-home order. More than two dozen other letters went to other businesses, including real estate agencies, nail salons and hair salons, notifying them this spring that they were out of compliance and needed to shut their doors.
Three letters went to businesses accused of deploying deceptive marketing when advertising COVID-19 antibody tests. Zvia Weight Loss and MedSpa in Lakewood was offering at-home tests and falsely claiming they were approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Wellness centers in Boulder and Fort Collins said their blood tests would reveal whether a person was immune to the virus.
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