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)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

Tri-County Health Department is no longer providing COVID-19 services in Douglas County as of today, county leaders said.

That announcement, along with news that the state public health department will be taking over those duties, was made during a Douglas County commissioners work session this morning. 

“I’m disappointed but not surprised that Tri-County is reneging on another deal that they have made with us, that we made in good faith,” Commissioner Lora Thomas said in the meeting.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will take over COVID-related services including case investigations and contact tracing until the new health department is able to find a way to provide them on its own.

Neither Tri-County nor the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment responded  immediately to requests for comment.

It’s the latest chapter in the divorce of Douglas County from Tri-County, the agency that has provided its public health services for more than half a century, largely over disagreements about COVID-19 safety policy.

After Douglas County formed its own health department in September, county commissioners made a deal with Tri-County to continue receiving all services, including those related to COVID-19, from the agency.

Then, the Douglas County Health Department approved a public health order that required all entities in the county, including the school district, to allow people to opt out of mask requirements. The order also limited the scope of COVID-related to quarantines in the county.

Emails obtained by Colorado Community Media through a public records request show that before that health order was approved Oct. 8, Tri-County told the new Dougco health board that these measures would make it difficult for Tri-County to continue providing COVID-related  services.

“Removing nearly all mitigation measures to control COVID-19 transmission in schools is greatly concerning and with decades of public health experiences and expertise, TCHD cannot support this action,” Jennifer Ludwig, the deputy director for Tri-County, wrote to the county board of health president, Doug Benevento, according to the records obtained by CCM.

Benevento responded to Ludwig’s letter that he was “truly disappointed.”

“My hope was that we could find a common ground that we could meet the needs that have been expressed by parents and teachers and I was disappointed we could not,” he said.

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Elliott Wenzler is a reporter for the Colorado Sun, covering local politics, the state legislature and other topics. She also assists with The Unaffiliated newsletter. Previously, she was a community reporter in Douglas County for Colorado Community Media. She has won awards for her...