The Douglas County Health Department will soon weigh whether it’s time to end a pandemic-related local public health order that restricted county entities from requiring masks.
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“I think we’re all acknowledging at this point, I am anyway, and certainly this is open for discussion and debate, that the pandemic is over,” Board President Doug Benevento said.
The county’s only public health order, which was approved in October 2021, initially was intended to prevent the school district from enforcing a mask mandate in schools. Then, the health department was sued by the school district and the families of nine students at high risk for COVID-19 and a judge issued a temporary halt of the order.
The health order was then amended to include all entities outside of the school district.
The board will consider a resolution to end the health order on Oct. 13.
The board will also consider a measure that would allow Public Health Director Michael Hill to enact an emergency health order if needed, with board consideration of the order soon afterwards.
Benevento discussed the possibility of repealing the motion during the first few minutes of an Aug. 11 board of health meeting. During these comments, he directed the board staff to produce an “after action review” of the pandemic response at the county level.
“If somebody else is in this position 10 years from now, what would they want to know? We kind of have that now,” he said. “We want to be able to have it down in writing.”
Board member Kevin Bracken said he would like to see the analysis focus on the Tri-County Health Department. Benevento responded that they would look at many other aspects beyond the regional health department.
“What I don’t want to do is I don’t want to put a target on anybody’s back and say we’re going to be looking exclusively at your actions,” Benevento said. “What we’re trying to do is provide a fair assessment of what happened."
The document would include an assessment of lessons learned from the pandemic response to provide for future boards.
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