First-graders are seen on their second day of school on Thursday, August 12, 2021, at Second Creek Elementary School in Commerce City. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news.

Tri-County Health Department on Monday repealed the ability of counties to opt out of its public health orders and issued an order requiring masks for all people 2 and older in schools and child care settings.

The vote, which undoes decisions by Douglas and Adams counties to opt out of a requirement for masks in schools, was made over the objections of Douglas County’s members of Tri-County’s board of health, the policy-making body for the health department that serves Douglas, Adams and Arapahoe counties.

“You are, and we are, collectively masking the wrong demographic,” said Kevin Bracken, who hours earlier was appointed as an iterim board member from Douglas County. Bracken argued that COVID-19 hospitalization data doesn’t support requiring children to be masked.

“You’re punishing the children,” Bracken added.

Bracken referenced the hospitalization threshold that Tri-County Health had set in the spring that would have triggered the return of “COVID-19 dial” capacity restrictions on businesses, saying that hospitalizations haven’t reached that mark. Tri-County Health allowed its dial policy to expire in mid-August.

Dr. John Douglas, executive director of Tri-County Health, argued that evaluating coronavirus policy regarding schools is a separate matter.

Tri-County Health officials felt that the earlier hospitalization threshold — 2 per 100,000 residents, measured a certain way over a 14-day period — was an appropriate measure by which to guide restrictions that would have economic repercussions on businesses.

“This is a different matter now,” said Douglas, citing concerns about spread of COVID-19 in schools and the interruptions to in-person classes that it could cause.

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