Colorado suggests K-12 schools stop contact tracing and limit quarantines

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released updated guidelines on how schools should respond to COVID-19 on Friday, introducing the idea that schools should move toward “a model of control of more typical routine illnesses” than a pandemic response model.

There were only two changes in the updated guidelines, although they were significant: quarantine.

The state health department continues to recommend vaccinations, isolation requirements, testing and masking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, but leaders say it’s time for schools to adopt a different approach as the numbers improve.

“As COVID-19 case rates, percent positivity, and hospitalization rates continue to decline and stabilize, it is appropriate for schools to choose a more typical routine disease control model,” said said state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy in a news release about the change.

“This approach will help schools, parents and teachers continue in-person learning with less disruption, but schools should consider transitioning to this option with caution, as moving too soon could lead to increased transmission. “

The state health department’s suggested implementation date for the guidelines is Feb. 28, but it noted that schools and districts should not transition to these guidelines until “the risk local transmission falls below a high or substantial level and stabilizes”. As of Monday morning, Larimer County still had high levels of community transmission, according to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The PSD’s seven-day case rate is 328 cases per 100,000 population, and in the past 28 days the district has reported 1,601 COVID-19 cases, nearly half of them at the elementary level, according to the table. edge of the PSD on Monday.

District spokeswoman Madeline Noblett told The Coloradoan Monday morning that the district is still reviewing updated state guidelines and has not yet determined any changes to its protocols.

If the PSD decides to implement the state guidelines, it will remove some of the last major mitigation strategies the district is still applying. PSD’s mask requirement for students and staff ended Feb. 12, and the district largely halted contact tracing — except for high-risk activities — in early January.

After:On Monday, the PSD moves to a “mask-friendly” district. Here’s what we know about the change.

What else was in the tips?

While the state recommends no more contact tracing and fewer quarantines, much of the previous guidance is still recommended — like vaccinations and isolating people who test positive for COVID-19 — and there have been some suggestions. to better monitor the spread.

The state health department has suggested that schools “implement new cluster or outbreak detection strategies,” such as reviewing school truancy data and sewage monitoring to get an idea. of the impact of COVID-19 on students.

And while students and staff exposed at school no longer have to quarantine, according to the state, schools should still quarantine those exposed at home due to the “significantly greater risk” that they pose.

Regarding outbreaks, the state guidelines noted that “without routine case investigation and contact tracing in place, outbreaks can be difficult to identify and outbreak thresholds difficult to implement. “, read the new guidelines. To help, the state has suggested schools monitor absenteeism and case counts to help determine if outbreak-level responses are needed.

Recommended outbreak response strategies outlined in the new guidelines include limiting mixing of the outbreak-affected group with others, temporary universal masking, and universal testing for the affected group.

The PSD was to reconsider its participation in the state’s free testing program for students and staff in January. Noblett told the Coloradoan on Feb. 9 that the district is “still evaluating the options available to school districts for testing and has not made any new decisions.”

PSD news:Teachers, facing PTO shortage due to COVID furlough, feel pressured to stay in class

Molly Bohannon covers education for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at [email protected] Support his work and that of other Colorado journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

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