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Coronavirus

Tri-County Health Department will “reconsider” its opt-out policy for school mask mandate

Mask order has elicited vocal responses from community members in all three counties in Tri-County jurisdiction

Outside Tri-County Health Department’s administrative office at 6162 S. Willow Drive in Greenwood Village. The agency serves more than 1.5 million people in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. (Ellis Arnold, Colorado Community Media)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

The local public health agency overseeing Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties will hold another meeting about its school mask order Monday, during which it may reconsider its policy allowing counties to opt out of the mandate.

An agenda for the meeting shows a “reconsideration of current opt out policy” is one of the items set to be discussed.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Tri-County Health Department policy allows counties to opt out of the health agency’s public health orders. After the agency approved an order requiring masks in schools on Aug. 17, the elected leaders of Douglas and Adams counties voted to opt out of the order.

Arapahoe County’s leaders will decide whether to opt any part of the county out of the order at a meeting on Aug. 31.

The issue of whether to require masks in schools has evoked contentious responses from community members in all three counties, with residents speaking in public meetings by the dozens in recent weeks about whether local government bodies should support mask requirements to combat COVID-19.

A crowd protested the Tri-County Health order outside the Adams County Government Center on Aug. 24 before the county commissioners voted 3-2 to opt out of the mask order.

The three Douglas County commissioners unanimously approved a decision to opt out of the order on Aug. 19.

Tri-County Health’s order requires masks for all children aged 2 through 11 years old — and all the individuals working or interacting with those children — in all indoor school and child-care settings in the three counties.

The health agency’s special meeting on Monday comes shortly after Douglas County officials aired complaints about the process by which the Tri-County board of health approved the mask order. The county is seeking to overturn the order.

Tri-County’s board of health is the policy-making body for the agency, with nine seats on the board — three each representing Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

Even if the order were to be legally overturned due to problems with how it was approved, it appears that the board of health could come back together and re-do the vote, essentially issuing the same order again.

The special meeting will also include a “reconsideration of (the) school mask mandate,” according to the agenda.

Asked whether the board of health intends to consider re-issuing its mask order in response to the Douglas County commissioners’ complaints, Becky O’Guin, spokesperson for Tri-County Health, said it’s unclear what will occur at the special meeting.

Read more at coloradocommunitymedia.com.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 9:19 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, to correct an editor’s error. The meeting is happening on Monday.