September 14, 2021 8:44 PM
State Releases New Guidance for COVID Prevention in Schools
(September 14, 2021) – On Friday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) updated COVID-19 guidance for schools.
The recommendations apply to students, teachers, staff, administrators, and school visitors, and extends to school districts with high vaccination rates as well as those with low rates.
This guidance comes as an outbreak has been reported in the Telluride Intermediate School. Five students in the same home room tested positive and have been directed to isolate as a result.
While masks are already required in all public indoor spaces throughout San Miguel County, including schools, the guidance urges schools to require universal indoor masking for all students, staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status and at all levels of community transmission.
“Schools resuming in-person classes is one of our greatest priorities, but this school year began just as the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading rapidly throughout the county,” said Public Health Director Grace Franklin. “Preventative measures that limit COVID transmission will help minimize disruptions and allow students to focus on learning. These protections are especially important for kids under 12 because they cannot yet get vaccinated.”
Schools are also being asked to improve their ventilation systems, including making necessary improvements like upgrading HVAC systems and adding HEPA filters to existing systems. Schools without HVAC systems should open windows to increase airflow.
The updated school guidance also recommends shifting to a transmission control strategy, with quarantine not required following routine class exposures if other protective measures, such as weekly testing, high vaccination rates in the school community, or low community transmission rates are met.
“If at least 80% of individuals ages 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,” the CDPHE wrote. “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.”
Public Health will continue to work with all schools and childcare centers throughout the county to protect students, communicate cases, and prioritize in-person learning. For more information surrounding the updated CDPHE guidance for schools, visit the CDPHE website. For updated quarantine guidance for school use, visit the CDPHE flowchart.