CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — Declaring that “this pandemic is over,” the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to pass a resolution to opt out of further Tri-County public health orders beginning Friday.
The resolution essentially opens up Douglas County businesses and restaurants to operate at full capacity. However, the state mask mandate and other restrictions that apply to indoor gatherings will remain in place. Additionally, Douglas County School District will still be required to follow state guidelines.
The board passed the resolution as the state prepares to hand control of the dial system and restrictions over to local county health departments Friday. Tri-County Health, which Douglas County is a part of, implemented a two-phase plan, extending the current dial for one month after Friday. However, with the passing of Tuesday’s resolution, Douglas County will not participate in the health department’s post-state control plan going forward.
Tri-County Health, which serves Adams, Araphoe, and Douglas counties, negotiated new terms with Douglas County in November, giving county commissioners the option to opt out of any public health orders they don’t feel applies to the county.
The reasons the commissioners voted to opt of further restrictions and reopen the county was cited in the resolution as due to the 98% survival rate of COVID-19, the severity of cases seen mostly in people aged 70 and older and those with underlying health issues, and that more than 80% people in that “vulnerable group” have been vaccinated.
Additionally, the resolution states that Douglas County was at a 26% ICU capacity rate as of April 7 and the 14-day rolling average of county citizen hospitalizations per 100,000 population due to COVID has been less than two per day since early December.
Commissioner Abe Laydon brought up the Hans Christian Anderson’s folktale, “The Emperor's New Clothes,” as a way to describe how further health restrictions in Douglas County, in his view, doesn't match up with current data.
“Based on the facts that we have before us today, I want to have the courage of that young child (in Anderson’s folktale), and for Douglas County to be first county in the state to say that this pandemic is over,” Laydon said.
The data cited in the resolution and repeated during Tuesday’s meeting appears to contradict what state health officials are seeing. They said Friday the state is in a fourth wave of the pandemic, with more than half of new cases being caused by variants of concern and with increasing case numbers and hospitalizations among people ages 18-50.
Gov. Jared Polis said Friday that it is currently “a time of great concern” for Colorado, with multiple factors all reaching a head simultaneously.
Colorado reported nearly 1,904 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, 93 new hospitalizations, and a seven-day average positivity rate of 5.62%, which continues to climb. There were also 494 hospital beds in use by confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients.