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Jeffco public health director spars with Christian school attorneys in court over mask mandate

jeffco public schools mask mandate protest_aug 4 2021.jpg
Posted at 6:43 PM, Sep 21, 2021

Attorneys for three small Christian schools faced off with Jefferson County Public Health’s executive director Tuesday during a daylong hearing in which the county health department sought to force the schools to follow its COVID-19 mask mandate for students.

The health department sought a judge’s order last week after the agency found that three schools were not properly enforcing mask mandates in their classrooms, according to court filings. The schools objected, saying both that they were following the county’s guidance — which they argued was issued late, lacked legal authority and changed over time — and that the county’s public health order was unconstitutional, among other arguments.

Jefferson County Public Health executive director Dawn Comstock was the only witness to take the stand Tuesday; the hearing did not finish and will continue Wednesday.

Comstock testified extensively about rising rates of COVID-19 infections in the county and particularly among school-aged children, who are not able to be vaccinated if they’re under 12 and have seen significant rates of infection since schools returned this fall.

“For the first time, both the 6 to 11 age group and the 12 to 17 age group have higher incidence rates than adults,” she said. “This is the first time that has been seen in the state of Colorado during the entire pandemic.”

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