A rally gathered more than 60 people in downtown Castle Rock on Dec. 12 to protest pandemic restrictions in Douglas County, urging the reopening of local businesses.
Douglas County is under level …
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Douglas County is under level red restrictions, which includes the closure of indoor dining at restaurants, something that has sparked local controversy and pushback from town restaurateurs.
Gary Godfrey was one of three event organizers and helped lead the protest, carrying a colonial flag and calling attendees patriots for protesting local restrictions. He believes shutdowns infringe on Constitutional rights, he said.
“I think after 10 months, people have learned to be able to respect others and understand how to protect others,” Godfrey said. “We need to trust our people and trust our business owners.”
Godfrey said people could hold businesses accountable through the free market. If residents disagree with a business's protocols during COVID-19, they could voice that through “consumer habits.”
“No one is denying this is a very contagious virus,” Godfrey said. “No one wants the flu either.”
Asked if he equates COVID-19 with the annual flu, Godfrey said “I'm not a medical person” but added he believes restrictions are less based in science than they are politics.
Godfrey was not the only protester who said pandemic response should be a matter of personal responsibility, not government shutdowns.
Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Bracken attended in support of local small businesses, he said. Bracken believes the county should be moved off level red restrictions and that restaurants should be allowed to resume “safe indoor dining.”
Bracken has become a vocal critic of the Tri-County Health Department's handling of COVID-19. He does not believe the health agency has used fair case investigation methods to acquire data supporting the closure of indoor dining.
Bracken knows COVID-19 is spreading, he said, but he suspects big box stores and grocery stores are more a contributor to the pandemic than small businesses.
“No one wants to get people sick but personal responsibility can be exercised,” Bracken said. “It's not OK to shut somebody's livelihood down.”
A spokesman for Tri-County Health could not immediately be reached for comment.
Gov. Jared Polis announced a new level on the state's COVID-19 dial called “level red” as cases surged statewide. Douglas County's level red status went into effect on Nov. 20.
Today, Douglas County's 14-day incidence rate sits at 818 and more than 140 people have died from the virus during the pandemic, with more than 13,600 total cases.
Local business owner Scott Brown runs Knockout Junk and an Exclusive Tans salon in town. Business is slower during the pandemic but holding up, he said. He came to the to support others not so lucky.
“We want to support everybody that's having such a hard time, especially restaurants,” he said.
Brown also believes local restrictions are government overreach and that pandemic response should be left with the individual, who should stay home when sick like what people “do with the flu.”
Brown said he considers COVID-19 more serious than the annual flu but that he thinks people can self-manage the spread of COVID-19 like they do when sick with other illnesses.
"I think we are all grown-ups. I think we can figure it out for ourselves. I don't think that it's not a problem," Brown said. "I believe it is out there. I believe it's a problem. We had a friend that passed away first part of the year, so we do understand how real it is."
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