Rather than declare a full state of emergency as other local governments have in recent days in response to the COVID-19 virus, Mesa County’s three commissioners are expected to declare a state of economic emergency.

At a special meeting held entirely on the telephone Thursday, the commissioners said that there is no need to declare a state of emergency because Gov. Jared Polis has already done so for Colorado and President Donald Trump the nation.

As a result, the county already is eligible to apply for special state aid in helping it deal with the crisis.

What isn’t covered, however, is the ability to apply directly for federal aid, at least not without declaring a state of economic emergency, something Mesa County Administrator Pete Baier is expected to do on Monday.

“I have no confidence that the governor will filter that money into the appropriate communities that would need it, and the economic disaster that potentially could come to Mesa County and communities along the Western Slope and Eastern Plains is going to be very impactful,” said Commissioner Rose Pugliese.

“So in light of the governor’s order and, obviously, the concerns of the business community and our economic stability, I think that … Mesa County is now in a state of economic emergency,” Pugliese added. “Our cases are still pretty low in Mesa County. I’m glad to see that test results are coming back and most are negative, so a public health emergency is different than the economic emergency that Pete would be declaring.”

Commissioner John Justman agreed, saying that portions of the federal conoronavirus stimulus package appear mostly geared for urban communities, meaning smaller ones such as Mesa County might be left in the cold.

“If the state gets the money and we have to apply to them, it would be much more preferable in my opinion if we could apply directly to the feds,” Justman said.

The commissioners also received a few updates on response to the pandemic.

Early Thursday, when people were waking up to Polis’ stay-at-home order, some in the construction community were dismayed to learn that the county building department had posted on its website that it was immediately suspending building inspections and plan reviews.

Baier, however, told the commissioners that post was pulled, saying the governor’s order exempted the construction industry.

Meanwhile, Dave Payne, assistant general manager for Ute Water, told commissioners that everyone’s tap water is safe.

“Long before this latest virus came out, the flu’s been around,” Payne said. “Drinking water’s never been considered a vector for the flu. Disinfecting with chlorine has been around since 1908. Chlorine is very effective against viruses and bacteria.”

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