Tri-County Health won’t require masks for unvaccinated in schools

Local health agencies, school districts to choose what COVID-19 restrictions to implement

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/26/21

With weeks until the upcoming school year, Tri-County Health Department — the local public health agency for Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties — says it plans not to require masks for …

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Tri-County Health won’t require masks for unvaccinated in schools

Local health agencies, school districts to choose what COVID-19 restrictions to implement

Posted

With weeks until the upcoming school year, Tri-County Health Department — the local public health agency for Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties — says it plans not to require masks for unvaccinated individuals in schools. 

“We strongly encourage mask-wearing in indoor settings for those not fully vaccinated,” said John Douglas, executive director of Tri-County Health. “However, (we) are not planning to require it at this point.”

Schools will likely return with little to no social distancing or mask requirements in August. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released new P-12 school COVID-19 guidelines on July 20, but the new guidance “does not constitute statewide requirements,” a state news release said. Instead, the guidance outlines “best practices” for local governments and school districts.

That means local health agencies — such as Tri-County — and school districts will decide for themselves what precautions to enforce.

Tri-County Health will continue to require quarantining of close contacts — those within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more — for anyone exposed to a person with COVID-19 in a non-classroom setting, Douglas said.

But this year, contact tracing is not required in the classroom setting, in order to prioritize in-person learning, Douglas said. Contact tracing is a term for when public health workers notify people that they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Any standards that school districts or local health officials implement for quarantines are likely to be looser than they were last school year, based on the new state guidance.

In Tri-County’s jurisdiction, students who are exposed to COVID-19 in the classroom will not be required to quarantine from school except in instances that are high risk: unmasked direct contact in sports, choir or with medically fragile students, Douglas said.

“All students and staff that are exposed should still monitor closely for symptoms and are not permitted to attend school if they develop symptoms. Testing, isolation and symptom-screening are still required before symptomatic staff and students can return back to school,” Douglas said.

Individual cases and potential outbreaks of COVID-19 — and all reportable medical conditions — are still required to be reported to public health officials, Douglas said.

Tri-County Health “will monitor cases and work with schools to implement additional mitigation measures such as masking, social distancing, contact-tracing and quarantine in the setting of an outbreak,” Douglas said. “These recommendations will only be required if the outbreak is high risk (or) severe or the school is not participating in the investigation and mitigation.”

For schools, a confirmed outbreak is defined as five or more cases of COVID-19, of which at least one case has had a positive molecular amplification test or antigen test, among students, teachers or staff from separate households with onset within 14 days in a single classroom or activity or other close contact in the school setting — including transportation to or from school and affiliated events, according to the state’s definition.

See more information on Colorado’s updated definition of COVID-19 outbreaks at tinyurl.com/ColoradoCOVIDoutbreak on page 6.

Alternatives for indoor activities or school events may be recommended or required depending on the severity of an outbreak, Douglas said.

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