AURORA | When the state turns COVID-19 public health orders over to local control this week the Tri-County Health Department will transition to a simplified dial framework for 30 days, but only two of the three counties in the agency’s jurisdiction will use it.
Douglas County board of commissioners announced Monday that the board plans to opt out of the framework, which will go into effect on April 16, and will formally consider a resolution to do so at its Tuesday meeting.
“We trust our citizens and businesses to think and act for themselves to protect their lives and livelihoods,” the 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.”
The modified dial was voted on at the Tri-County Health Department’s April 8 board of directors meeting.
The new public health orders will move all counties one notch down to a less restrictive level starting April 16 when control is turned over from the state to the counties, and will last through May 15. Currently, Adams and Douglas Counties are at Level Yellow and Arapahoe County is at Level Blue.
“With cases going up and limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, Tri-County Health Department believes it is necessary to remain cautious for a brief extension of time until vaccines are more widely available,” the department said in a weekend press release.
For the following 90 days through August 16, counties will be in an “observation period” where there are no restrictions but the department will monitor hospital admission rates to determine whether modifications are needed.
There will not be capacity limits during that time period, according to a release from the department, but mask orders may still be in place.
Board members also voted to allow counties to continue participating in the 5-star program.
Executive director John Douglas told the board that the region is currently on a good trajectory for controlling COVID-19, though incidence rates have slowly been drifting upward, particularly in Douglas County.
Colorado is currently in its “fourth wave” of COVID cases, he said, and so far there has been no increase in deaths. However, he said that the state is not doing enough genomic sequencing to determine how prevalent the new COVID-19 variants are in Colorado.
The region is continuing to see progress on vaccinations, but vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic residents are consistently lagging white residents in all three counties. The department is putting “enormous effort” into reaching those communities, Douglas said, particularly Hispanic residents.