DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Douglas County Board of Health issued a Public Health Order allowing residents to be exempt from face-covering requirements. Now, parents can opt out of their children wearing masks in school.
Douglas County originally announced splitting with Tri-County Health after the department passed a universal school masking order and rescinded the option to opt-out of public health orders. Tri-County Health originally served Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas Counties.
The board initially said Douglas County had been "exploring options and opportunities to alternative means for the delivery of public health services" for several months.
Now, the order, which went into effect Saturday, October 9, allows parents to choose whether or not to they want their child to wear a mask while in school or childcare facilities. If a parent chooses to not enforce masks, they must sign an exemption claim.
DCBH provided an example of an exemption in the Public Health Order:
Adults working in schools and childcare facilities can also opt-out of wearing a mask.
The Public Health Order also makes it "impermissible" to quarantine a child due to "actual, suspected, or potential exposure related to COVID-19" if the child is asymptomatic.
George Teal, County Commissioner and member of the Douglas County Board of Health, claims there is "insufficient data" suggesting masks should be required on schools and childcare facilities.
“Attempting to use children as a shield against spread in the community by masking or ineffectually quarantining asymptomatic children will pose greater mental health risks to a much larger number of children resulting in a far more negative overall impact to the community,” Teal said.
However, according to our Denver affiliate, the Douglas County School District is still recommending that masks are worn at all times. While riding school busses, students still have to wear masks as ordered by the federal government.
For parents with immunocompromised children, this Public Health Order means their children are more vulnerable.
Kate Gould is a parent of two kids at Heritage Elementary School in Highlands Ranch. One of them has cystic fibrosis.
"So, we are a family that is directly impacted by this order," Gould said to 9News.
Lora Thomas, County Commissioner, Board Chair and Vice President of the Douglas County Board of Health, told 9News, "we need to learn how to live with this virus and not let it control us."
"This is not something that is going to kill classrooms full of children," Thomas said. "We need to put this in perspective that children need to be able to go to school and learn."
Gould told 9News her concern isn't necessarily about all students getting the virus, it's for children and family members who are immunocompromised.
"These children come home to families like mine, families with grandparents, families with siblings who are immunocompromised, families with parents who are immunocompromised," Gould said.
For now, Gould said she'll continue sending her children to school with a mask. She also has a message to other parents.
"And just ask them, appeal to them as a mother, please send your child to school in a mask so that my child can stay," Gould said.
The order remains in effect until December 31, 2022, unless extended, rescinded, or amended.
To read the full Public Health Order, click here.