“I think it's deeply—and I want to underscore deeply—disappointing, in the time of a pandemic, the divisiveness in this country,” the agency's chief says.
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The chief of the Tri-County Health Department ordered the agency's headquarters to close temporarily after police informed staff of a threat against the department's building in Greenwood Village.
The agency administers public health services in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.
The Greenwood Village Police Department informed health department officials of the threat in the evening of July 8. Officials closed the building at 6162 S. Willow Dr. Thursday and today.
Officials did not disclose the specific nature of the threat.
Tri-County spokesperson Gary Sky said details are limited while the investigation is ongoing. Sky did not know exactly when the threat was made or the nature of the threat.
Dr. John Douglas, the agency's executive director, said the department previously received other threats directed at employees and the building has been vandalized multiple times. People have also staged protests outside the building.
The agency has stirred up controversy among some in its response to the COVID-19 crisis, including directives involving public mask wearing and staying at home. It is not known if the latest threat was related to that controversy.
Douglas said much of the vitriol has ramped up in the past four days.
“I think it's deeply — and I want to underscore deeply —disappointing, in the time of a pandemic, the divisiveness in this country,” Douglas said. “The people on the frontlines responding to the pandemic are getting attacked. It’s clearly a minority, but a vocal minority.”
Tri-County held an all-staff meeting today to discuss the current situation and next steps, Douglas said. The Board of Douglas County Commissioners announced July 9 the county will begin the process to withdraw from Tri-County Health Department.
“We’re just starting to process it,” Douglas said. “We’re getting questions (from employees), very obvious questions: ‘Is my job secure? Should I start looking for another job?’” Douglas said. “We’re eager to proceed ahead in a way that is in the best interest in protecting the well-being of staff because that’s how we get our work done, and I want to develop approaches that reassures” and protects staff.
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