Douglas County to form its own health department after Tri-County removes the opt-out on health orders

Calling the Tri-County Health Department’s decision this week to no longer let counties opt out from its health orders a “breach of an agreement,” the Douglas County commissioners on Wednesday voted to move ahead with a split from the agency it has been a part of for 55 years.

A formal vote on a resolution breaking away from Tri-County is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

Wednesday’s action came two days after Tri-County Health voted to rescind counties’ ability to opt out of its health orders, a protocol it had agreed to last November after Douglas County threatened to leave the agency that also covers Arapahoe and Adams counties over COVID-19 directives, including mask mandates and business closures.

On Monday, the agency not only eliminated the opt-out but ordered all school districts in the three counties it oversees to require masks for all staff and students 2 years old and older in indoor settings. That prompted Douglas County leaders to accuse Colorado’s largest public health agency of unilaterally violating its agreement with the conservative county.

Commissioner Lora Thomas on Wednesday said it was time for the county to “figure out how we get out from under Tri-County Health as soon as possible.”

“I believe that we have been double-crossed, that we negotiated in good faith and that the time has come for this board of commissioners to look at what really is the best method of delivery of public health services to our residents,” she said.

County staff presented information during the noon virtual meeting that was attended by nearly 300 people showing that there are currently no pediatric hospitalizations across the five hospitals in Douglas County and that there has been only one death among those 18 and younger in the county throughout the entire coronavirus pandemic.

Statewide, pediatric COVID cases are now increasing faster than adult cases as the highly contagious delta variant of the virus continues to spread, but hospitalizations among the young have not spiked.

Commissioner Abe Laydon said it is time to give parents back control over their children’s health.

This story is developing. 

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