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Going solo on public health will not come cheap for Tri-County’s remaining two members

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Going solo on public health will not come cheap for Tri-County’s remaining two members

Public health is about to get more expensive in Adams and Arapahoe counties, as the rapid unraveling of the Tri-County Health Department forces both metro counties to figure out how to best safeguard the wellbeing of more than a million residents amid an ongoing global pandemic.

That’s the conclusion of a consultant’s report released last week, which calculated that Adams and Arapahoe counties will have to spend millions more to provide public health services whether they join forces or choose to each go it alone.

The difficult — and sudden — choice facing the two counties stems from Douglas County’s decision last month to break off from Tri-County and form its own health department following a months-long battle over COVID-19 public health orders, culminating with Tri-County’s directive that all students be masked while in school.

Douglas County had been the third member of Tri-County since 1966. The public health agency has provided services like disease surveillance, vital records and infectious disease protection to a large swath of the metro area population for more than 70 years.

The report, from the Otowi Group LLC, states that Arapahoe County’s annual tab to go solo would leap from the $4.8 million it currently pays Tri-County to $8.4 million. Meanwhile, Adams County would pay $6.5 million a year as its share to operate its own health department, well above the $3.8 million a year it contributes to Tri-County for health services.

An Adams County health department would have an overall $18.5 million budget with 158 employees, while Arapahoe County’s agency would have a budget of $22 million with nearly 200 employees, Otowi Group said. Aside from the county contributions, the agencies’ revenues would come from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and from what is raised through grants and contracts for service.

Even if the counties partner in a single public health district, the report says, more than $6 million in “additional needed” funding beyond what the two counties now pay Tri-County is required. And that’s not to mention the $61 million in “transition costs” that Otowi projects the disassembly of Tri-County will generate.

“Whatever we do, we want to make sure we have a seamless health department for our residents,” Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Jackson said. “This is not going to be an easy decision. This will take some time.”

Concerns about cost estimates

Already there is pushback on some of the consultants’ numbers, with Adams County Commissioner Steve O’Dorisio calling them an “inflated, worst-case scenario” that needs to be “analyzed more.” His colleague, Commissioner Eva Henry, said of the report: “There are holes in it.”

Both commissioners question how much Adams and Arapahoe counties will be on the hook for separation costs, $50 million of which the report pegs as pension obligations under the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, or PERA.

“There’s no evidence that we ever signed anything as a county that we were responsible for PERA,” Henry said.

Attorneys for the county, she said, are poring over the financials of Adams County going forward with its own health department or pairing with Arapahoe County, and she expects that she and her colleagues will make a decision on what to do by Dec. 1.

Chris Henning, a spokesman for Arapahoe County, acknowledged that creating a standalone agency or partnering with Adams County “results in a cost increase to the county.” But he said final costs will likely change based on the “specific mix of programs that are needed for Arapahoe County residents.”

And that’s where the auspicious aspects to going alone on public health come through, Henry said.

“The greatest benefit is targeting our health services to the needs of Adams County residents,” she said. “This has made us really take a look at our health department and how to make it better.”

That was part of Douglas County’s philosophy when it broke away from Tri-County, saying it had a much different demographic and health picture than its two partner counties. The county, which will still contract for services from Tri-County through 2022, hasn’t yet pinpointed a cost to run its own health agency, but Commissioner Abe Laydon said he is “not interested” in paying more than the $2.5 million the county paid Tri-County a year.

Counties’ differing needs

The three counties that made up the Tri-County Health Department are significantly different from each other and different from what they once were, O’Dorisio said. Adams County, for example, had just 40,000 residents when it joined Tri-County after World War II. It now has 520,000 residents.

“Each of these communities is growing and we each have different challenges and needs,” he said. “I believe the pandemic just highlighted those differences and accelerated the inevitable.”

Adams County faces unique health and environmental challenges with the Suncor Energy oil refinery in Commerce City and the county’s extensive oil and gas production sector, both of which present air pollution and water contamination concerns. Suicide prevention and family planning, especially in communities of color, are also issues that Adams County grapples with to a greater degree.

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101-year-old returns to Pearl Harbor to remember those lost

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101-year-old returns to Pearl Harbor to remember those lost

HONOLULU — When Japanese bombs began falling on Pearl Harbor, U.S. Navy Seaman 1st Class David Russell first sought refuge below deck on the USS Oklahoma.

But a split-second decision on that December morning 80 years ago changed his mind, and likely saved his life.

“They started closing that hatch. And I decided to get out of there,” Russell, now 101, said in a recent interview.

Within 12 minutes his battleship would capsize under a barrage of torpedoes. Altogether, 429 sailors and Marines from the Oklahoma would perish — the greatest death toll from any ship that day other than the USS Arizona, which lost 1,177.

Russell plans to return to Pearl Harbor on Tuesday for a ceremony in remembrance of the more than 2,300 American troops killed in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that launched the U.S. into World War II.

About 30 survivors and 100 other veterans from the war are expected to observe a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the minute the attack began.

Survivors, now in their late 90s or older, stayed home last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and watched a livestream of the event instead.

Russell is traveling to Hawaii with the Best Defense Foundation, a nonprofit founded by former NFL Linebacker Donnie Edwards that helps World War II veterans revisit their old battlefields.

He recalls heading topside when the attack started because he was trained to load anti-aircraft guns and figured he could help if any other loader got hurt.

But Japanese planes dropped a series of torpedoes that pummeled the Oklahoma before he could get there. Within 12 minutes, the hulking battleship capsized.

“Those darn torpedoes, they just kept hitting us and kept hitting us. I thought they’d never stop,” Russell said. “That ship was dancing around.”

Russell clambered over and around toppled lockers while the battleship slowly rolled over.

“You had to walk sort of sideways,” he said.

Once he got to the main deck, he crawled over the ship’s side and eyed the USS Maryland moored next door. He didn’t want to swim because leaked oil was burning in the water below. Jumping, he caught a rope hanging from the Maryland and escaped to that battleship without injury.

He then helped pass ammunition to the Maryland’s anti-aircraft guns.

Russell still thinks about how lucky he was. He ponders why he decided to go topside on the Oklahoma, knowing most of the men who stayed behind likely were unable to get out after the hatch closed.

Russell remained in the Navy until retiring in 1960. He worked at Air Force bases for the next two decades and retired for good in 1980.

His wife, Violet, passed away 22 years ago, and he now lives alone in Albany, Ore.

For decades, Russell didn’t share much about his experiences in World War II because no one seemed to care. But the images from Pearl Harbor still haunt him, especially at night.

“When I was in the VA hospital there in San Francisco, they said, ‘We want you to talk about World War II.’ And I said, I told them, I said, ‘When we talk about it, people don’t believe us. They just walk away.’ So now people want to know more about it so we’re trying to talk about it. We’re trying to talk about it, and we’re just telling them what we saw,” he said. “You can’t forget it.”

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Celtics Notebook: Jayson Tatum on a run

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Celtics Notebook: Jayson Tatum on a run

In addition to rebounding at a career rate (10.2) over his last five games, Jayson Tatum has been finishing at the rim and getting to the free throw line with more regularity than at any point this season.

He’s averaged seven free throw attempts per game dating to a Nov. 15 game in Cleveland, when Tatum shot 7-for-7 from the line. He’s gone 30-for-31 over his last three games heading into Tuesday’s game against the Lakers.

Considering that Tatum has played some of his best basketball against the team he adored as a youngster, expect his best.

It’s all the result of attacking, and making adjustments to how the game is being called this season, with a wider margin of error for defenders.

“We’ve hit him quite a few times with not settling, making a quick decision and when he does that he can get to the basket or make plays for other guys,” said coach Ime Udoka. “He had some success quite a few games ago and saw himself getting to the free throw line. Saw he was missing shots earlier in the year that we love for him getting to the basket.

“I think he just saw the success of getting to the basket, getting to the free throw line, and how that opened everything up for himself and has carried that over,” he said. “We love the balance  and the fact that he can score in the post, pick-and-roll and iso — anywhere on the court. But we love him getting downhill and being aggressive there, and driving and kicking for his teammates for sure.”

Udoka would like to keep Tatum at his current 36.5-minute level, especially now that Jaylen Brown is a day-to-day consideration with his healing right hamstring.

“I don’t necessarily think 36 is a big thing for him,” he said. “Given that Jaylen’s been out the amount he has and we’ve had to rely on (Tatum) more, that obviously was ramped up a little bit beside the extra overtimes, the six extra periods there tacking on some minutes.

“But he’s a guy that’s coped well,” said Udoka. “He’s finding his rhythm and as I’ve mentioned, I’ve never seen a guy his age take care of himself and prepare the way he does with treatment, getting the shots he needs, in the weight room. He’s living in the gym, so he takes care of himself and it’s not a coincidence that he’s been able to play those high minutes and play at a high level.”

Especially now that Tatum is attacking the basket, with his paint attempts and kick-outs on the rise.

“He’s picking his spots, understanding what he has to do every night for other guys, as well as himself,” said Udoka. “We just say make the right play, basically, and he’s done that all year for the most part. There’s still going to be times when he goes to his natural tendency of looking to score at times, but he does it at a high level, so you can’t knock him on that or take that away. But, as I’ve stressed over and over, he’s learning on the fly what he has to do to become a more well-rounded player offensively and defensively and he picks his spots well. I’m thinking he’s making the right play for the most part and teams are going to try to take the ball out of his hands. So the more he loosens everybody else up, the easier it becomes for him in the second half of games.”

And as Tatum’s performances even out, his confidence will build.

“Stay confident. Stay consistent in his process of what he does,” said Udoka. “He doesn’t waiver from that, whether he scores 40 or has a bad shooting night. He comes in and does what he does every day like I just mentioned. So his professionalism is off the charts, especially for a guy his age, like I said. I’ve been around a long time and never seen a guy at that age and focus on taking care of himself to the extent that he does. It’s a credit to him that he’s able to play those minutes. Thirty-six isn’t a crazy high number. Like I said, we’ve had to rely on him probably more than we would have liked to early with guys being out. But he’s taken on a heavy load and stays consistent with what he does every game, every practice, every day.”

‘Being cautious’ with Brown

No Celtic benefited more from the team’s two-day stay in Los Angeles than Brown, who is once again listed as questionable as he slowly returns from a strained right hamstring. His workout intensified during Monday’s practice.

“Jaylen is listed as questionable, and will be questionable going forward,” said Udoka. “Had a good session today, ramped it up a little bit and with him we want to be patient and wait for him to get to 100 percent. Whenever that is, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow after going harder today than he has in awhile, since he played in the games, and like I said, big picture approach, being cautious with it and getting him back at 100, not 85, 90, so it doesn’t linger, and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

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Patriots-Bills inactives: Kyle Dugger out, all 8 questionable Pats active in Buffalo

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Patriots-Bills inactives: Kyle Dugger out, all 8 questionable Pats active in Buffalo

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Questionable? Ha.

For the third straight week, every Patriot listed as questionable on the team’s injury report is active. Starting right tackle Trent Brown and defensive tackle Christian Barmore were among the eight supposed question marks, but both will play in windy Buffalo. Backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham, cornerback Shaun Wade and linebacker Jahlani Tavai are the Pats’ most notable inactives.

The Patriots also activated linebacker Jamie Collins off injured reserve and elevated defensive lineman Daniel Ekulale and safety Sean Davis from the practice squad.  They are without starting safety Kyle Dugger, who remains on COVID-19 reserve.

For the Bills, run-stuffing defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is active after returning from injured reserve. Wide receivers WR Marquez Stevenson and Isaiah McKenzie are both out.

Both teams’ complete inactive lists are below.

PATRIOTS

QB Jarrett Stidham

LB Ronnie Perkins

TE Devin Asiasi

OL Yasir Durant

BILLS

WR Marquez Stevenson

WR Isaiah McKenzie

FB Reggie Gilliam

OL Jamil Douglas

DT Vernon Butler

DE Efe Obada

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