ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — The Adams County Commissioners didn't plan to take up the issue of a mask mandate during its meeting Tuesday morning, but the topic was added to the agenda after a crowd of people showed up clearly wanting the issue discussed.
Ultimately, after a brief debate, the commissioners voted 3-2 to join Douglas County in opting out of the mask mandate from the Tri-County Health Department (TCHD), which oversees Douglas, Adams, and Arapahoe Counties.
The mandate is included in a public health order (PHO) that went into effect on Aug. 23. It requires masking for staff and children in childcare centers and schools that serve students ages 2-to-12.
The decision follows the endorsement by Tri-County of recent federal guidance that recommends mask wearing in public areas with high rates of community transmission.
Last week the Douglas County commissioners voted to opt out of the mandate, but the Douglas County School District said it would still follow the TCHD health order and require masks.
When the pandemic hit last year, Douglas County commissioners argued that the mandates were put in place by unelected officials.
On Tuesday, the Adams County Board of commissioners, which leans more Democratic, appeared to criticize the health department for allowing the opt out provision.
Commissioner Lynn Baca said she favors a mask mandate and encouraged her fellow commissioners to consider forming a new health department.
"I still believe in masks. It was under the state health order under Polis that we were able to have in-person learning," Baca said of the last school year. "I believe the mask mandate may not go far enough.. and I also believe that we are not that beginning at bottom of a mountain of COVID who is still the enemy."
Baca, however, still voted in favor of opting out.
"I am going to vote in favor today of the opt out option for Adams County, with the long term that we send a message to Tri-County Health that opt out no longer works for us," Baca said.
Now in both Adams and Douglas counties, it's up to schools to decide if they'll abide by the public health order.
On Tuesday afternoon, Adams 12 Five Star Schools announced it didn't plan to change its mask policy despite the vote.
The district cited the following reasons for its decision:
- Our belief that current mask guidance provides the best opportunity to continue full-time, in-person learning for as many students as possible
- The increase of positive cases within our community
- Minimizing required quarantines per local public health orders if children ages 2 through 11 are wearing a mask
- Remaining consistent with Broomfield Public Health’s order requiring masks for children ages 2 through 11 in school and child care settings. The district has schools in both Broomfield and Adams counties.
The Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners will hold a study session to discuss the County’s options related to the PHO on Monday, Aug. 30 beginning at 1 p.m.
The session will be live-streamed, and the Board is encouraging County residents to submit their opinions about this issue ahead of the session by completing a brief feedback form before Aug. 28.
Arapahoe County Commissioners have already received many comments from residents in support of and against opting out of the public health order, and the Board will review all resident feedback prior to the Aug. 30 meeting.
The Tri-County Health department released the following statement on Tuesday:
"We followed the discussion among the Adams County Commissioners this morning about the recently enacted mask mandate with interest. While we are disappointed with their decision to opt out of the mandate, we are sympathetic to the pressures that the Commissioners have because of the opt out policy that the TCHD Board of Health implemented last year and pleased that many of them acknowledged the importance of masking as a critical prevention measure as we face rising rates due to the Delta variant as school is restarting.
The value of widespread use of masks to prevent infection, particularly among unvaccinated children, is threefold: to reduce the chance of their becoming ill, to reduce spread of infection to family members who might not be fully protected by vaccines, and to maintain as high a level of in-person learning as possible, both to enhance education as well as mental health. We are already seeing school outbreaks across our counties, including schools in Adams County, resulting in kids having to stay home due to classroom outbreaks. Widespread use of masking is one of the most effective strategies schools can promote to reduce the chance of outbreaks, and although Adams County has opted out of this order, we continue to strongly encourage schools to use masking as an effective disease mitigation strategy.
We will continue to work closely with Adams and Arapahoe Counties to determine how best to deliver public health services to their residents should Douglas County continue down the path of forming its own public health department."
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