On Monday, Aug. 30, the Tri-County Health Department Board of Health (BOH) issued a new public health order (PHO) about mandatory masking in schools that rescinded Arapahoe County’s ability to opt out.
The Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners (Board) was planning to vote on whether to opt out of the previous PHO, which Adams and Douglas counties had already done, at the Board’s business meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 31. But the BOH action meant that all three counties no longer had statutory authority to opt out or otherwise change the new PHO requiring masks in schools and childcare settings across all three counties.
The Board subsequently eliminated this item from its Aug. 31 agenda but still welcomed public comment at the meeting. About 20 people attended virtually and in person to voice their concerns about the new Tri-County PHO; the public comment period lasted about an hour.
Then on Wednesday, Sept. 1, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners announced its intention to leave the Tri-County partnership and form its own public health department. Douglas County had previously confirmed this intention in July, 2020, but Wednesday’s move will likely accelerate that timeline.
The Arapahoe County commissioners have begun a multi-phase process that is assessing next steps around forming a new public health department, either independently or with Adams County. The Board is meeting with stakeholders and gathering information—including public feedback—about all possible options and is expecting to have a report completed by Oct. 2021. In the meantime, Arapahoe County will continue working with Tri-County on all aspects of its operations, and any decisions the Board makes about future arrangements will be driven by its commitment to maintaining the highest levels of health and safety for all County residents.