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LCDHE provides schools with resources and expertise while also intervening in outbreaks when they occur. We also support the districts, private, and charter schools and provide consultation to:

  • help make decisions related to COVID-19 in schools
  • provide data and trends to our community and our schools so they can make informed decisions on how to best protect their students and staff

Higher vaccination rates in our community have allowed us to open capacity levels and return to many normal day-to-day activities in much of our community. We appreciate that the majority of individuals in our community have been willing to help protect themselves and others through vaccination. We will continue to focus on vaccinations as the primary way to keep schools in-person, with as minimal disruption as possible.

Throughout the pandemic, we have learned many lessons, and now we have community data from what we saw in schools last year. Our schools did a great job of keeping kids and staff safe. Distancing, masking, quarantining, and handwashing measures put in place helped most of our schools have very low case counts. We saw much of our spread from activities outside of the classroom. Sports, parties, sleepovers, club practices, and playdates contributed to many of our cases in schools last year.

Many of our school-age kids have been vaccinated, and we are optimistic that an increasingly high level of vaccination will help us keep cases low in our schools this year. But we still have more work to do to increase vaccination and ensure as many children as possible have as many uninterrupted days at school as possible. We need vaccination more than ever with the highly contagious variants now circulating in our community. There is still time to get vaccinated and help protect students and teachers as we return to school this fall.

We know not everyone can be vaccinated yet, but we are hopeful now that younger children are eligible, even more children will get vaccinated. The higher our immunization rates are, the fewer disruptions there will be in schools this year.

Larimer County Department of Health and Environment COVID-19 Operations Guide for Schools and Child Cares

This guidance was developed so that Larimer County can ensure the following desired outcomes: 

  • Keep children learning in-person at schools and childcares with minimal disruptions
  • Help our hospitals maintain sufficient resources to meet all critical health care needs in our community
  • Return to pre-pandemic conditions through near universal vaccination in Larimer County

At a high COVID-19 Community Level, universal indoor masking, including K-12 settings, is strongly recommended. There are certain settings and situations where masks are still required by federal and state entities, including the following situations:

  • Everyone who is 2 years of age and older must wear a mask in indoor Head Start settings.
  • Persons returning to school on days 6-10 following isolation must wear a well-fitting mask over the mouth and nose while at school or around others.
    • Anyone unable to wear a well-fitting mask over their mouth and nose should complete a full 10 days of isolation. Schools are encouraged to make this common knowledge for parents and staff as well as create a mask-friendly environment so students do not experience unintended consequences (i.e. bullying) from following these requirements.  
    • Students should refrain from participating in extracurricular activities where mask cannot be safely worn during this period.

Individuals who were recently exposed to COVID-19 should take precautions, including masking, for 10 days while indoors and around others following their date of last exposure.

In situations where there is evidence of transmission within a classroom or other school setting (i.e. outbreaks) or high levels of community transmission, LCDHE strongly recommends universal masking along with other mitigation strategies such as ventilation, distancing, and testing.

The State of Colorado distributes KN95s and surgical masks to schools that have opted into the program at no cost. More information on that program can be found here: https://www.cde.state.co.us/safeschools/masks-coloradoschools

Effective February 25, 2022, CDC does not require wearing of masks on buses or vans operated by public or private school systems, including early care and education/child care programs. 

Schools and child care facilities are required to report cases of COVID-19 they are made aware of to public health, even if testing was performed elsewhere. Schools are able to disclose this information to public health without prior written consent under FERPA’s health or safety emergency exception, because someone who has COVID-19 represents a potential threat to the health and safety of others at the school. This is true even if there is not an outbreak. 

Schools and child care providers are required to report all outbreaks to the health department or CDPHE within four hours. Schools and child care providers must report both suspected and confirmed outbreaks.

Reporting Cases and Outbreaks to LCDHE

  • K-12 school providers can report positive cases and outbreaks by completing this reporting form.
    • Reporting is required under Colorado Statute and Regulation 6 CCR 1009-1. 

In settings where outbreaks and multiple case clusters are identified, we strongly recommend using layered mitigation strategies in consultation with LCDHE.

Given the potential risk of transmission on days 6-10, LCDHE will support school partners who choose to maintain a 10 day isolation period for cases. This is not required.

Isolation:

  • Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 including on at home antigen tests should stay home and not come back to school until fever-free for 24 hours, AND other symptoms have improved, AND it has been at least 5 days from onset of symptoms, or if asymptomatic, 5 days from the date the positive test was administered. 

  • Well fitting masks must be worn for 5 days after discontinuing isolation if cases utilize the shortened 5 day option. In situations where it is not feasible for a case to reliably wear a well fitting mask in this time frame (days 6-10), the individual should be excluded for the full 10 day period. These situations may include early childhood education centers and classes with special needs students. Facilities are encouraged to consult with LCDHE to determine if masking requirements can be met in order to utilize this shortened 5 day isolation period.  

Post-Exposure Precautions: 

In accordance with CDPHE guidance, local public health agencies may take a heightened risk approach to higher risk exposures, including quarantine of exposed individuals. LCDHE may recommend contact tracing during a cluster assessment (3 or more cases in a 10 day period). Individuals who were recently exposed to COVID-19 should take precautions including masking for 10 days while indoors and around others following their date of last exposure.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is providing all K-12 Colorado schools (public, private, charter, and tribal) with FREE and voluntary testing options.

Staff and students should self-screen at home prior to the school day using CDPHE's "How Sick is Too Sick?" guidance, and should NOT come to school if experiencing any COVID-like symptoms: new onset of cough, fever, sore throat, chills, body aches, headaches, and/or nausea/vomiting/diarrhea. 

Schools should follow the CDPHE Addressing Symptoms at School guidance.

Families and staff are encouraged to contact their medical provider if experiencing COVID-like symptoms. See CDPHE’s How Sick is Too Sick guidance. 

  • Currently, vaccines are not required for staff or students by a state or county public health order. LCDHE supports and encourages individuals getting the COVID-19 vaccine who are age 6 months and older. 
  • LCDHE will continue to share information with our community regarding COVID-19 vaccine opportunities. Find current COVID vaccine providers.
  • LCDHE strongly encourages families to share student COVID-19 vaccination status with school office staff. 
  • Asking someone about their vaccination status is NOT a HIPAA violation- please refer to this article for more information.
  • The Pfizer vaccine has received full FDA approval for ages 16+ and is being marketed under the brand name “Comirnaty”.COVID-19 Vaccine

Seating charts remain a helpful tool in understanding disease transmission in a cluster or outbreak. They can also assist schools with streamlining communications to parents when there has been an exposure. In lieu of seating charts, we recommend that schools send exposure notifications to the entire classroom or group in which the positive individual was present. This will help parents and guardians make informed decisions regarding testing, masking, and contact with high risk individuals.

Ventilation in Schools and Childcare Programs

Ventilation in Schools

  • Recommend using 100% fresh air to ventilate when outside air temperatures are pleasant.
  • Run fans before and after school to flush buildings. 
  • Explore possible installation of Ultraviolet Air Disinfection equipment inside of HVAC equipment across the district and/or other HVAC upgrades to support healthy learning environments.

Schools are encouraged to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces throughout the school buildings as often as possible.

Schools are encouraged to require hand washing throughout the school day and should provide scheduled time for this as much as possible.

COVID-19 Requirements and Recommendations in Larimer County K-12 settings 
Updated 8/16/2022

Routine Disease Control Cluster Assessment*
No clusters or outbreaks identified 3 or more cases in a cohort within 10 days
Requirements Requirements

-Follow isolation requirements for students and staff who are ill or have tested positive for COVID-19.

- Continue to report identified cases to public health as required by Colorado Statute and Regulation (6 CCR 1009-1).


 

-Previous requirements PLUS

- LCDHE may require the following information to assist you in a thorough cluster assessment: seating charts, rosters, vaccination status, absenteeism, and any information on outside exposures for all impacted classrooms/ activities. Please be prepared to provide these upon request. 

- Notify staff, teachers, and the parents and guardians of students in the affected cohort informing them of the cluster and required protection measures within 2 working days. Encourage parents to monitor exposed children for symptoms. Ensure parents have an easily accessible system to report new symptoms.

Recommendations Recommendations

- Individuals who were recently exposed to COVID-19 should take precautions including masking for 10 days while indoors and around others following their date of last exposure.

- Continue to support regular mask use by staff and students. At a high COVID-19 Community Level, universal indoor masking, including K-12 settings, is strongly recommended**

- Implement transmission prevention strategies, including testing and masking for staff and students following illness and exposures.

- Strongly recommend tracking school absenteeism. If possible this should be broken down by reason (illness or non-illness related) and type of illness (i.e. respiratory or gastrointestinal).

Become familiar with the various CDPHE school  testing options.

- Continue to encourage vaccination of staff and students

-Review existing mitigation strategies and introduce new ones where appropriate (avoiding lunches and recess  that bring together classrooms and grades, increased ventilation and filtration, increased disinfection, increased hand hygiene awareness, etc.)

-Notify parents and guardians of in school exposures so they can make informed decisions. This template has been provided for your convenience. 

-Previous recommendations PLUS

- Universal mask wearing throughout the impacted cohort, including staff and teachers for 10 days following the date the last positive case attended while infectious.**


- If not already completed, provide LCDHE with absenteeism rates related to illness for the school and the impacted cohort

- Set up meetings between LCDHE and school staff to discuss trends, adjust protective measures and other protocols, as necessary

- Routine testing among cluster classrooms or activities. Schools can use tests available through CDPHE’s Test to Know Program.
 

* The Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) does not currently have a defined outbreak threshold for K-12 facilities or higher education. The term “cluster” is being used here to capture situations that may not need to be reported as an Outbreak. Defining and reporting outbreaks to CDPHE will depend on a number of factors including the number of cases, the illness attack rate, and the severity of illness. 

 

Without routine case investigation and contact tracing in place, outbreaks may be difficult to identify and outbreak thresholds challenging to implement. If schools identify increases in absenteeism, especially due to respiratory illness, or an increase in reported cases of COVID-19, they should contact LCDHE. LCDHE will work closely with schools to determine if an outbreak is suspected and if outbreak response strategies are needed to control transmission.

**Although universal masking is no longer required as of 2/12/2022 in most Larimer County K-12 schools, persons returning to school on days 6-10 following isolation must wear a well-fitting mask over the mouth and nose while at school or around others. Anyone unable to wear a well-fitting mask over their mouth and nose should complete a full 10 days of isolation. Schools are encouraged to make this common knowledge for parents and staff as well as create a mask-friendly environment so students do not experience unintended consequences (i.e. bullying) from following these requirements. Individuals who were recently exposed to COVID-19 should take precautions including masking for 10 days while indoors and around others following their date of last exposure.