SOUTHERN COLORADO — On Tuesday night, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CPDHE) released new COVID-19 guidelines for back-to-school.
The state says it will adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations that came out a couple of weeks ago.
- Increased physical distancing.
- Serial COVID-19 testing.
- Contact tracing.
- Targeted quarantining.
- Limiting high-risk activities.
- This includes: indoor sports, contact sports, and other activities involving forced exhalation such as band or orchestra
The CDPHE reiterated that the guidelines are not a state requirement, and they recommend that school districts take a "layered" approach to this in order to minimize the spread. For example, they say places with higher transmission rates may want to use more precaution than places with lower transmission rates.
With the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading quickly, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends anyone above the age of two wear a mask while at school. The federal government has not endorsed the AAP mask recommendation for the fall semester.
The new announcement could change what many school districts were planning when it comes to masks in the classroom.
For instance, Academy School District 20 (ASD20) says they exclusively follow state or local health department guidance. Earlier this month, they sent an update to parents, saying students, staff, and visitors do not have to wear a mask regardless of their vaccination status. However, they also warned parents those guidelines could change at any time.
News5 spoke with Susan and Brad Mikaelian, who have four children in ASD20. Their two older children have been vaccinated. The Mikaelians said they understand the need for masks for students who are not vaccinated. "I know the risks to them are very low if they get COVID, however, there are still some kids getting really sick from COVID, so if I can avoid that as a parent I would do that at any cost," said Susan.
The Mikaelians said they do know some parents who will not like the new mask requirements because they would like their children to return to school with an increased sense of normalcy. Brad Mikaelian said he would do whatever it takes to avoid another year like 2020.
One of their children, Luke Mikaelian, said he would rather wear a mask and be in school than do online schooling. "Once I'm partly through the day, I get quite used to it," said Luke, who is entering fourth grade in the fall.
In Pueblo, School Districts 60 and 70 said they are waiting on updated guidance from the state or a local health department before finalizing their mask guidelines.