DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — After 90 minutes of heated public comments and more than two hours in executive session Monday, the Tri-County Health Department Board of Health chose to hold off on making a school mask mandate decision until Tuesday.
Douglas County commissioners said Monday that while the delta variant is more contagious, it's not necessarily more dangerous in children. The commissioners also insist they will not make decisions based on what they call sensational news and social media reports.
"I'm not going to be dissuaded by sensational media,” said commissioner George Teal. “Until we receive peer-reviewed research that indicates delta is severe for young people, I’m not interested in creating additional issues or mandates for our citizens."
Tri-County Health met Monday afternoon to decide if masks should be required in schools, but the board of health ultimately voted to make the decision during a 4:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday.
Douglas County represents the largest school district in the state where masks are not required.
“My youngest daughter has three children in the system, and they suffered so much last year,” Sara Althouse said. “They are loving the normalcy of the whole situation this year without masks."
“Initially, we had no idea what was going on,” Philip Woodworth said. “We thought it was wise that the community as a whole take a pause, step back, assess the situation. Now, as our understanding of the COVID virus has developed and the vaccine came online, I think we have to reassess again.”
During the Tri-County Health forum, many spoke for and against masks in schools.
“It is our responsibility as adults to keep these kids safe,” said parent Alexis Ramirez, who spoke in favor of masks on the public Zoom call with Tri-County Health.
“What’s the price of masking our students?” a parent Ron Marrocco said in the Tri-County public forum. “Is it really necessary to step on the airways of our children… in the name of a low-risk virus?”
Douglas County commissioners held a pre-emptive meeting of sorts prior to Tri-County’s forum, in which commissioners doubled-down on their very public feud with the health department.
"NASA has put out some statistics about being hit by an asteroid by 2300,” commissioner Lora Thomas. said “We are much more likely to die from an asteroid hitting the planet than a child dying from COVID."
DougCo schools mask policy came under fire late last week after a photo surfaced of an all-school assembly at Castle View High where the vast majority of students in the gym were maskless.
But, there are also thousands who support the district's mask-optional policy.
“I think we need to ask those who have refused the vaccine to own some personal responsibility,” Woodworth said. “And those that have accepted the vaccine and taken protection for themselves and their family - should be allowed to enter back into society and pursue things such as business, education, arts and entertainment and the like. Life is a constant balance, and there’s no perfect solution. There’s going to be COVID here forever, and we just have to learn to deal with it.”