New guidance issued by the CDPHE last week for schools recommends masking in K-12.
The state updated and clarified its Practical Guide for Operationalizing CDC’s School Guidance to reflect updated best practices and guidance for schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
There is no indication area school districts will follow the mask recommendation.
When asked to comment, Yuma-1 Superintendent Dianna Chrisman responded: “The health and safety of our students, staff and community is of utmost importance and YSD-1 will continue to monitor case counts and school and community impacts. We have an extensive list of strategies supported by the CDPHE guidance that we will utilize in consultation with our Yuma County Covid-19 Task Force based on case count information.”
Later on Tuesday, the district announced on Facebook it had “received notification of 2 positive COVID-19 cases; one at Yuma Middle School and one at Yuma High School. The individuals who tested positive are currently in appropriate isolation following Health Department guidelines.”
Burlington schools had to go remote September 7-16 after having some reported cases. The number of cases was not reported. The school district stated on Facebook that per CDPHE rules, the district was considered to have an outbreak “and must go remote to prevent further spread.”
The CDPHE stated in its new guidance that “Mitigation measures to slow COVID-19 transmission help minimize the disruption caused by disease transmission and help students continue in-person learning.”
In the updated guidance, CDPHE recommends local public health agencies and school districts implement mask requirements for all individuals entering K-12 schools in Colorado including students, staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status or level of community transmission. “This is especially important in settings where vaccination rates are low and where many students are not yet eligible for vaccination,” it stated.
The CDPHE release stated: “Even when not required by local public health or a school district, staff and students may choose to wear masks. Schools and school districts should ensure that every classroom is a welcome environment for students and staff who choose to protect themselves in this manner.”
The update also provides additional guidance on improving ventilation. COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses are spread through respiratory droplets that are produced when people breathe, talk, sneeze, or cough. Improving ventilation by increasing air exchanges and filtration assists with the dilution of contaminants that might be present, including respiratory droplets.
There are a number of ways in which schools can improve their ventilation such as ensuring existing HVAC systems are maintained in good working order and run for at least 30 minutes before and after the building is occupied, adding HEPA filters to existing systems, or using portable HEPA filters. Schools without adequate HVAC systems may open windows to increase ventilation during the day. Outdoor activities are strongly encouraged, especially for higher risk activities and meal times.
The guidance continues to recommend that vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine following an exposure. Unvaccinated students can also avoid quarantine following a typical classroom exposure if both the infected individual and the exposed student were correctly wearing masks, or participating in weekly screening testing.
In response to stakeholder feedback, the new guidance removes one of the community level metrics that previously recommended that quarantine for exposed students could be avoided if county vaccination rates were higher than 70 percent. Another metric, relating to school level vaccination rates, remains but was increased from 70 percent to 80 percent.
If at least 80 percent of individuals age 12 and older within a school community have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, no one, including unvaccinated individuals, needs to quarantine following a typical classroom exposure to a case.
In areas with low vaccination rates and high case rates, schools must work with their local public health agency to determine quarantine requirements when cases of COVID-19 are identified.
The state is offering a free and voluntary statewide serial testing program for schools and districts. If a school or school district is interested in enrolling in this program, they can go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CDPHE release states that “Vaccination is the most effective tool we have against COVID-19, including delta variant. We urge unvaccinated and eligible Coloradans ages 12 and up to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The vaccine is safe, free, and convenient to get across the state.”
Continue to stay up to date by visiting covid19.colorado.gov.
Local cases keep rising
Yuma-1 began the school year just last Tuesday, September 7, and received notification of two positive cases on Tuesday, September 14. Most other area school districts began two to three weeks earlier, but to date Burlington and Bethune have been the only ones impacted by cases.
However, the number of cases in Yuma County continue to rise, as well as throughout the region, while vaccination rates remain relatively low.
Yuma County had 14 new cases over seven days, as of the September 13 update COVID dashboard at the Northeast Colorado Health Department’s website, nchd.org. That brings the estimated active cases to 35. There were no hospitalized cases. There were only 104 new tests over seven days, a significant drop, but the test positivity more than doubled to 13.9 percent.
The county had 47 cases over 30 days.
Neighboring Washington and Phillips counties have seen the rate of cases increase.
Washington County was up to 22 estimated active cases as of September 13, with 13 over the past seven days. However, there were no hospitalized cases. The county had 24 new cases over 30 days.
Phillips County had bumped up to 28 estimated active cases, including 14 new ones over seven days. The county’s test positivity was at 18.7 percent based on only 75 new tests. There were no new hospitalizations, however. The county had 35 new cases over 30 days, an increase of 30.
Sedgwick County has been going the opposite direction. It had outpaced Yuma County in active cases a few weeks ago, but has been dropping ever since, with 10 as of September 13. SedgCo had just one new case over the past seven days.