A boy listens to his headphones as Douglas County Health Board members debate allowing students and teachers to opt out of masking mandates in schools at an Oct. 8 special meeting. (Jessica Gibbs, CCM photo)

The Douglas County Health Department will allow people to opt out of local masking requirements in schools under a new health order aimed at curbing masking mandates for students and staff.

But Children’s Health Colorado strongly rebuked the move, along with the board’s attempts to link masking with mental illness in children, and it remained unclear how the Douglas County School District would respond. The district currently requires universal masking.

Douglas County Health Board President Doug Benevento said during the special board of health meeting Friday that he would not hand down any masking mandates for children without what he called “clear and convincing evidence of the benefits of masking.”

“This board isn’t considering ideological viewpoints,” he said.

The health order takes effect Oct. 9 and declares a student may be exempt from any masking mandate in the county if their parent or guardian provides a written declaration saying a mask negatively affects their mental or physical health. Adults may also opt out of masking mandates, something board members said would allow teachers to opt out.

No children or adults can be required to quarantine because of an exposure to COVID-19, including if they were exposed to a confirmed case, unless that exposure “is associated with a known outbreak.”

People who are placed in quarantine can be released after a minimum of seven days, if they test negative five days after their exposure, and if that negative result is obtained “no later than 48 hours before the end of the quarantine.” Quarantines can’t last longer than two weeks from an exposure.

State or federal mandates supersede the local order and could implement mask mandates or different COVID-19 mitigation measures in the county. The order is not enforceable at private businesses, Benevento said.

Read more at douglascountynewspressnet.

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