DENVER – Colorado public health officials released more guidance Wednesday for how school districts and parents can prepare for the event a student, staffer or class contracts coronavirus and needs to quarantine at home, and how they can return.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said that more than 70 districts, school nurses, teachers union representatives, counties and local public health agencies had input over the past week on the guidance released Wednesday.
The guidance includes a checklist for parents and school staffers on whether students or staff should attend school, what to do if someone feels sick after arriving at school, guidance on returning to school or work after a positive coronavirus test, and a tool to figure out whether classmates or a cohort should stay home from school if a close contact is sick or tested positive for the coronavirus.
Under the guidance, if a student tests positive, they will have to stay home until they are released from isolation. Their class or cohort would have to stay home for a 14-day quarantine if it is determined they should do so by using the tool. Close contacts would be advised to be tested and to stay at home until they are released from quarantine.
The same guidance applies for if a teacher or staffer tests positive for the virus.
If an outbreak were to be confirmed, there is a tiered process for determining who would have to stay home depending on whether a school was using cohorts or not. The most extreme scenario officials provided guidance for would be 5% of students and staff testing positive for COVID-19. If that were to happen, all teachers, students and staff would be advised to stay home until they are released from isolation, a 14-day school closure would be recommended, and officials would be asked to consider testing the entire school population.
Under the guidance, schools would be advised to be closed if five or more classroom or cohort outbreaks occur within a two-week period, if at least 5% of unrelated students and teachers have confirmed cases within a two-week period, if more time is needed for cleaning before a return to school, if more time is needed to gather COVID-19 data, or if a school cannot operate with current staffing levels because of absences due to COVID-19.
The guidance says that siblings of people who test positive will likely be considered close contacts. The guidance also gives considerations to test students and staffers at school and details about how to deal with other respiratory infections expected to pop up this school year – particularly the flu.
The CDPHE says it is establishing an Absenteeism School Surveillance Program to collect data on students and staffers who are absent because of COVID-19 or other illnesses to better track outbreaks and case reporting.
The guidance surrounding cases and outbreaks comes after the CDPHE and Colorado Department of Education released guidance on how to safely reopen schools late last month.
More information on COVID-19 and Colorado schools can be found on the CDE’s 2020-21 school year kit.
Click here for more information on when and how Denver-area school districts plan to begin their school years.