LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Jefferson County Public Health was forced to shut down on Wednesday due to a large protest outside its office. Hundreds demanded that officials let parents decide whether their kids should wear a mask or get vaccinated against COVID-19.

(credit: CBS)

“We need to return them to normalcy,” Lindsay Datko said.

Datko is a mom, former teacher, and helped to organize the event with JeffCo Unites: Kids First.

“We know that Jefferson County Public Health has given guidance with a velvet glove over an iron fist,” she said.

Protestors were hoping to get a response from the health department, however JCPH Director Dr. Dawn Comstock told CBS4 in a written statement:

“I very much appreciate hearing from all community members and having the opportunity to answer questions directly. Unfortunately, because of the need to protect everyone involved, I was advised to close the clinic today, which meant our department could not provide in-person services. I have and will continue to listen and be responsive to groups who contact me with feedback or questions,” , Executive Director, JCPH.

“My son, he’s 8 and his social abilities have been really hurt by all of this, first with the lockdown, and then the masks,” she said.

(credit: CBS)

Another protestor, Brandy Cyrnes, thinks the conversation is no longer about whether the virus poses a threat, but about letting parents make the best choice for their kids.

“I do think it exists, there are precautions to be taken but I think that’s your own choice,” she added.

(credit: CBS)

JeffCo Public Schools also responded, referring to guidance they have released.

“On July 29, Jefferson County Public Health released an announcement recommending that all people return to wearing masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. JCPH has also indicated to us they will strictly enforce quarantine guidelines for exposure to COVID, and they have the legal authority to do so. They have indicated they will require quarantines for routine classroom exposure for anyone unvaccinated and not wearing a mask. This has major implications for our students age 11 and under, who are not eligible for the vaccination at this time.”

“Quarantines greatly interrupt learning for healthy children. In order to avoid quarantines of numerous students in any one classroom or school who may have been exposed to a positive case, we will require masks for students ages 3 to 11 (generally PK through 6th grade) in all schools while indoors. Once a student becomes fully vaccinated (currently eligible at age 12 or older) masks are recommended, but not required.”