If the past four years under the Trump Administration taught the nation anything, it is that facts matter, and pandemics are not political events.
Douglas County officials not only never learned those lessons, but for years, they’ve been part of a politically driven problem that endangers public health for residents in Aurora and across the metro area.
Tri-County Health Department, which governs the southeast region, agreed last week to extend pandemic protocols for at least several more weeks. Mandating masks and social distancing has provably prevented the spread of COVID-19, critical illness and, ultimately, deaths.
Douglas County officials don’t want any part of it.
“We trust our citizens and businesses to think and act for themselves to protect their lives and livelihoods,” the Douglas County commission board said in a statement. “In lieu of further orders, we will continue to encourage strong public health recommendations, good hygiene, and the choice to be vaccinated.”
It’s arrogant and unscientific frivolities like this that have created surges, mostly among younger residents in states such as Florida, Michigan, New Jersey and New York.
It’s not the first time Douglas County officials pushed back against difficult but necessary limits on businesses and public gatherings to prevent the wildfire spread of the pandemic and the collapse of the state’s medical system.
Early on in the pandemic some county officials and other area elected representatives backed a restaurant’s rogue attempt to serve the public in the crowded Castle Rock eatery for Mothers Day 2020. That, despite clear limits among growing transmission in the state.
Later, county officials, having repeatedly refused to go along with mask mandates and other restrictions, asked for a government divorce. The county and Tri-County Health Department, which serves and regulates health codes in Aurora, Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, asked to pursue separating from the three-county health department cooperative.
The only real public outcry came from those who could easily see the move would be complicated and eventually cost all taxpayers money for nothing.
Nothing, that is, except for Douglas County officials being able to hire health department leaders who believe businesses and residents don’t need rules or regulations to do the right thing to protect the health of the public.
Systems like that do exist, primarily in undeveloped nations where public health problems and disease rage.
Given the choice of trusting Tri-County Health Department Chief Dr. John Douglas or the manager of a Douglas County steakhouse to make the right calls, we recommend staying with Dr. Douglas.
The poor and dangerous judgment of Douglas County officials sadly affects not just residents there, but all residents of the greater metro area. Disease spreading among residents in Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree or Castle Rock will spread to the rest of the metroplex as those residents mingle at work and play in Aurora, Denver and elsewhere.
It’s not hyperbole, it’s science. And science shows now that the spread of COVID-19 has been creeping up in Douglas County for weeks, at a greater rate than Adams and Arapahoe counties. Abandoning the proven methods for containing the pandemic until far more people are vaccinated bodes ill for all of us.
Politicizing the pandemic is only the latest in a string of similar problems in Douglas County. The sheriff there was nearly outed by other elected officials for refusing to turn against common sense gun control measures. They are regular outliers in the Legislature, pushing against measures that benefit everyone in the metro area.
It’s time for Adams and Arapahoe counties to begin their own investigation into how to extract Douglas County from a once common-sense alliance. A more natural and likely mutually beneficial cooperative could be made with Jefferson and Broomfield county health departments. Since the state dictates most of what these health departments do, and since public health matters are regional, unaffected by invisible county lines, a regional department without duplicative administrations could save money and allow for improved services.
It certainly would benefit all of these counties to bring Douglas into the mix, unifying nuanced health rules for food service and disease prevention. But that can’t happen until there are adults returned to that board of commissioners, ready to consider science for a county responsibility where only science, not politics, should be considered.