Commissioner: Douglas County planning to leave Tri-County Health and opt out of mask order

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DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Douglas County is planning to leave the Tri-County Health Department (TCHD), according to Lora Thomas, a county commissioner.

“My fellow commissioners and I have directed staff to leave (TCHD) and develop a public health dept to meet the needs of our residents. We will also opt out of a mandatory mask order from (TCHD),” Thomas said via Twitter Thursday afternoon.

The announcement comes after TCHD announced new mask-wearing requirements Wednesday.

The department’s board voted 5-4 to require face masks in public places and businesses where 6 feet of distance is not possible. Local municipalities have the option to opt out.

In March, some Republicans called on Douglas County to leave TCHD.

In addition to Douglas, TCHD covers Arapahoe and Adams counties. According to state data, COVID-19 cases are rising in all three counties.

However, Arapahoe and Adams counties have seen many more cases. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Arapahoe County has seen 845 cases per 100,000 people and Adams County has seen 897 cases per 100,000 people. Douglas County has seen 314 cases per 100,000 people.

“From the very beginning we saw much better numbers than our neighbors to the north. To have a top-down mandate for 300,000 residents just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for us,” said Abe Laydon, a Douglas County commissioner. “It’s just the difference between freedom and force.”

By statute, Douglas County must give Tri-County Health Department a year’s notice before separating from the partnership, which means a new Douglas County Health Department won’t become official until sometime in 2021.

Correction: An earlier version of this story underreported the number of hospitalizations in Douglas County.

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