DENVER – The director of the public health department for Weld County – which has the third-highest number of COVID-19 deaths among Colorado counties, the fifth-highest case rate per 100,000 people and is experiencing multiple outbreaks – will retire from his position at the end of the month, the county announced Friday.
Dr. Mark Wallace has been the director of the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment for nearly 20 years and spent 1995-2000 as the county’s public health medical adviser.
The county announced that he told commissioners he will retire in order to “spend more time with family and [focus] on his health,” according to a news release.
“I am proud of the work I have done here,” Wallace said in a statement. “The employees at the Health Department have been amazing to work with, and I know the department will continue to do great things for the residents of this county.”
The county said that the emergency response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Weld County will now transition to be fully under the county’s Emergency Operations Center and that Wallace and county commissioners are working to develop a transition plan for the department’s top role.
The announcement comes a week after The NoCo Optimist, an online news outlet based in Greeley, reported on documents it had obtained that showed Wallace warned county commissioners not to allow businesses to reopen last month, as they did once the statewide stay-at-home order expired.
“Weld County has not met the threshold for reopening of a downward trajectory of cases. Any relaxation of restrictions should be cautiously staged given the risk of even wider spread of the disease,” Wallace wrote to commissioners, the Optimist’s Kelly Ragan reported.
There were 2,087 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Weld County as of Friday afternoon and 113 confirmed deaths.
Seven of those deaths have involved people who work at the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, which has the largest outbreak of the virus in the state and which Wallace first identified as a significant hotspot for the virus.
“Mark’s devotion, drive for perfection, and compassion for others have been instrumental in helping the county Health Department attain incredible success. We wish Mark all the best,” Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said in a statement. “We truly appreciate his work for the county, and we respect his desire to now focus on his family, friends and new opportunities down the road.”