CDPHE: State health officials release back-to-school guidance

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) released new P-12 school guidelines as teachers, students, and staff prepare for the 2021-2022 school year. CDPHE will adopt and clarify school guidance released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and is providing a practical guide for schools, parents, and students on how to operationalize the CDC guidance in the state’s education settings. 

“We want to make sure that schools remain a safe place, and this plan outlines ways to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19 in the school setting, while facilitating in-person learning,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. 

Colorado has adopted a guidance model designed to empower local public health and local leaders to protect their communities using the mitigation strategies most appropriate to local conditions. The guidance does not constitute statewide requirements, but instead outlines evidence-based best practices for local governments and schools to manage the next stage of the pandemic.

In addition to vaccination, the state continues to recommend a layered approach of best practices to COVID-19 prevention. These best practices are described in detail in the Back to School Roadmap, and include ventilation, maximization of outdoor activities, mask wearing, testing, spacing, cohorting, symptom screening, cleaning and disinfecting, and handwashing.

“Our data demonstrate a clear association between Colorado’s increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates and decreasing case, hospitalization, and death rates,” said Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, CDPHE. “Yet our unvaccinated Coloradans remain vulnerable to the new variants, especially the Delta variant, which appears to be more likely to make young people ill than previous variants. Because many students have yet to be vaccinated and students under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine, we must continue to remain vigilant, take important mitigation steps that can reduce transmission of COVID-19, and address outbreaks in a safe and thoughtful manner.” 

Colorado’s best defense against COVID-19 is increased vaccinations, as vaccination prevents disruptions to in-person learning. Fully vaccinated staff and students won’t have to miss school due to quarantine and fully vaccinated staff and students do not have to wear masks unless they choose to. Vaccines have been highly successful at preventing transmission, infections, and deaths from COVID-19. The back-to-school guide includes ways that CDPHE can partner with schools and school districts to host vaccination clinics and increase our defense against this virus. Children’s risk of contracting COVID-19 is greatly reduced when they live in a household where all eligible individuals are fully vaccinated, even if the children are not yet eligible for vaccination. Any school or school district interested in hosting a vaccination clinic should complete the vaccination event request form to request more information about vaccination partnerships and outreach. 

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CDPHE: State health officials release back-to-school guidance