Coronavirus, Douglas County, Featured

Douglas County set to pass ‘Free to Choose’ COVID resolution; no mask, vaccination mandates

CASTLE ROCK  —  The Board of Douglas County Commissioners are expected on Tuesday to declare Douglas County a mask-free and vaccination-free friendly jurisdiction.

The commissioners have drafted a resolution declaring that the more than 350,000 residents of the south metro Denver area county are free to choose how they handle protecting themselves from COVID-19.

“Any expected local enforcement of the mask order is an unfunded mandate, leaving the obligation of enforcement to local jurisdictions and the business community but denying any local control over the restriction itself,” the resolution reads in part.

George Teal

According to the resolution, there is now a better understanding of the virus and effective treatment options. There are now vaccines available, and the severity of COVID-19 hospitalization and deaths continues to decrease or remain manageable.

In the resolution, the commissioners say there are numerous, legitimate reasons an individual may not be willing or able to show proof of vaccination, including religious objections, medical privacy health and disability issues, and First Amendment concerns.

“Amongst others that should not result in the deprivations of basic rights,” it reads. “The citizen concerns around the mask orders focuses mostly on the concept of vaccine “passports” where people will be treated less favorably based on their eligibility or willingness to show proof of vaccination.”

The resolution says the commissioners are not only opposed to any ongoing mask mandate or requiring proof of vaccination but anything that could disenfranchise their citizens from the right to make their own health care decisions. However, not all commissioners are on board. It is likely to pass on a slim 2-1 vote, as Commissioner Lora Thomas told Complete Colorado it is not good governance, and she does not support it.

“I believe that, from the very beginning, Gov. Polis has been wrong in virtually every aspect of his COVID-19 response, especially his failure to include local governments and their leaders — the people who were expected to explain, implement and enforce these responses— in any planning, formulation or consideration of his COVID policies and responses,” Thomas said in an email.

Thomas reached out to Complete Colorado after the original story published.

“Because this resolution has no legal effect, as the Board has no authority to repudiate or ignore state law/regulations/executive orders, there can be no other reason for this resolution except to gain notoriety and pander to political interests, as if to say ‘Look at us!’ Thomas said. ‘We don’t have to follow the law because it’s a bad law that we don’t like and disagree with!’  The Commissioners just last week reviewed the results of a citizen survey we conducted.  One of the major criticisms of this Board was the polarization of our actions and policies.  This proposed resolution is precisely the type of action that our citizens have told this Board they do not want.”

The resolution makes it clear that “Douglas County shall not require masks or proof of vaccination in any county facilities,” and “residents are free to choose how to protect their lives and livelihoods regarding mask wearing, mask requirements, and vaccination passports, and such requirements shall not be mandatory in any indoor space in Douglas County.”

Further, there will be no fines or penalties for failure to wear a mask or present a vaccination passport in any indoor space in Douglas County.

Commissioner George Teal said, while businesses still need to be cognizant of state licenses they hold, the resolution was necessary to speak for the people of Douglas County and how they are feeling about all the mandates.

“It’s about where we are right now in terms of the mask mandate and specifically his [Governor Polis] last executive order seeming to tee up a vaccine passport and the private use of that,” Teal said. “It’s a real concern down here that vaccine passports can control the access of our residents to services and businesses are going to be placed in the hands of private businesses that might not be focused on individual rights.”

Thomas said the fact there is a disclaimer and/or attempt at indemnification is ‘prima facie’ proof that it knowingly flouts the law of a superior body.

“While civil disobedience by citizens in protest of laws they disagree with is also part of our tradition, it is never proper for governments to unilaterally exempt themselves from laws made by superior bodies,” Thomas said. “This resolution is just so much tough talk without the force, effect or authority of law, for if it was, there would be no need for such a disclaimer.”

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