Stay-home order extended for Adams, Arapahoe counties, most of Aurora — Douglas County order to end

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AURORA | A “stay-at-home” order to combat spread of COVID-19 will remain in effect for Adams and Arapahoe counties until May 8, the Tri County Board of Health decided Friday. Douglas County, which is also under the agency’s jurisdiction, will not.

“We believe the extra time will enhance our testing, we’ll begin to get our contact investigation off the ground, and, as I heard at least a couple mayor’s tell me over the last couple hours, enhanced business preparation for safer-at-home provisions,” Dr. John Douglas, Tri County Health executive director, said during a virtual meeting. 

Douglas County is preparing its own county plan, which Dr. Douglas is reviewing. It’s not clear whether the entire public health board will review that strategy. One board member said the board hadn’t received a copy of the first draft yet.

Dr. Douglas said he talked with elected officials in all three counties and many cities within the region before recommending the extension, and they all replied with differing views.

“…That wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear. I said, Look, guys, we have a dual epidemic. We got virus, we got unemployment. You’re elected leaders, please work with me to help figure out what’s best to do. I’m a public health expert. I’m not an economic expert. Can we coordinate this?” he said in the meeting. “And basically every group I talked to it was ‘We have different views. We would like for you to do this. We think you should do this. More containment, less containment. But ultimately, we need to rely on public health to make that decision.’”

Tri County enacted a stay-at-home order on March 25, before Gov. Jared Polis made a statewide order. 

Then, a group of Douglas County Republicans called for Douglas County commissioners to “terminate whatever contract exists between Douglas County and that organization.” 

“Unelected bureaucrats should not have the unilateral authority to simply decide to enact policy that would imprison citizens for 18 months and fine them 5,000. This is outrageous and will only lead to less social distancing as people panic buy,” Rep. Patrick Neville, of Highlands Ranch, tweeted. 

Dr. Douglas didn’t address those calls from politicians during the board meeting, but rather highlighted that Douglas County has seen fewer numbers of COVID-19 cases.

“With Douglas County, they have pulled together a plan given their substantially lower numbers. We thought the first version of their plan made sense they’ve modified it since then. It’s reasonably close to the safer-at-home outline, with some modification is capacity and public health parameters allow,” he said. “There is some interest, I believe in Douglas County, if they can pull together sufficient information to even ask for a waiver to go down a pathway like Eagle County did and move faster. We’ll be looking at that closely with them.”

Prior to the vote, a Tri County spokesman said the department would be working with other regional health agencies to develop more of a regional plan. Denver, Boulder and Jefferson counties have all extended orders as well.

The separation of orders for the counties is a rarity, Dr. Douglas admitted during the meeting.

“Tri County, at least since I’ve been here, has pretty much acted one-for-all and all-for-one and we do things the same across counties. This would explicitly be a difference from that model,” he said.

Dr. Douglas said it’s not expected that the order be renewed after May 8.