By Mike McKibbin/NewsBreak Denver | June 10, 2022
[DOUGLAS COUNTY, COLO.] Cases of the coronavirus in Douglas County residents currently mirror those of the state, public health department Executive Director Michael Hill told the county board of health Thursday.
How the Tri-County Health Department reacted to the virus in 2020 led the county commissioners to leave the agency and form a county health department.
At the monthly meeting, Hill said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment show the county's positivity rate at 12.2% compared to 11.5% two weeks ago. Hill said the average number of cases over seven days was 1,334, while the county vaccination rate for residents with at least one or more doses was 80.6%.
He added that fully vaccinated residents were at 75.6%, and 60.3% had received a booster shot.
"Our hospitalization and death rates are not going up," Hill said.
While the county is the seventh most populous in the state at around 370,000 people, Hill noted it ranks 10th in COVID cases and 14th in deaths from the virus.
"Those numbers are not scaring me," he said.
Focus on severity
Commissioner George Teal, a member of the board of health, said he hoped the county would maintain a focus on the severity of COVID cases.
"The case numbers could be a canary in a coal mine but before there's any call to resume the control measures that were so divisive, we need to make sure we truly have a benchmark on severity and there is an actual risk to the public," Teal said.
Hill said he does not see a need for any control measures at this point.
"Like elsewhere, I think we have a lot of people getting COVID, but they're not hospitalized because so many are vaccinated," he said.
Hill added he is working with county staff to post a dashboard on the county website to help track all infectious diseases, not just COVID.
Hill also noted the county department would officially take over responsibility for issuing local health alerts on July 1. Tri-County currently has that authority.
Protect personal choice
The subject resurfaced toward the end of the meeting when the board discussed Hill's recently published comments on the county health department's status, staffing and operations.
"What I tried to say was about interfering with liberties and making people wear masks," Hill said. "That's not my go-to move. If someone is a Typhoid Mary and causing trouble for the entire community, we might have to restrict your activities to protect the community. But that's a last gasp effort."
Hill said the focus should be on educating people to avoid getting ill to help ensure everyone is safe "without taking anyone's civil liberties away."
Board President Doug Benevento, a former state health department director, supported Hill's statements.
"These are the kinds of things you don't like to talk about, but a competent, well-run health agency needs to be prepared to deal with them," he said.