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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
  • conduct interviews with cases to minimize spread of the virus from those who are sick

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 Delta variant that is 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 that once 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

Subject to Change-Updated January 2022: 

The CDC recently clarified that their COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidelines apply to K-12 schools. Learn more about how CDPHE is incorporating these recommendations into Colorado K-12 school settings here

LCDHE closely monitors both CDPHE and CDC guidance. As we receive more information from CDPHE and from case data for our county, LCDHE’s recommendations may be updated to reflect best practices.

CDPHE recommends local public health agencies and school districts implement universal masking for all individuals entering K-12 schools in Colorado. As of 2/12/22 there are no local public health orders requiring universal masking in schools.  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 or quarantine 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 or quarantine. 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.

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.

In line with CDPHE guidance, masking by both parties is still considered protective from quarantine in most settings, and can reduce the number of close contacts in high risk settings.

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

  • Schools and child care providers can report positive cases and outbreaks by completing this reporting form.
    • This form is required to be completed for all cases that participate in sports, music, or other high risk activities that include forced exhalation or physical contact.

CDPHE continues to require the reporting of outbreaks. Situations that meet the definition of an outbreak must be reported to Larimer County. In settings where outbreaks and multiple case clusters are identified, we strongly recommend using layered mitigation strategies including face coverings, social distancing, and contact tracing in consultation with LCDHE.

Contact tracing continues to be required for outbreaks and will occur in the setting where the outbreak is occurring (e.g. a specific classroom or activity) and not for the entire school in which where the outbreak takes place. 

The CDC recently clarified that their COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidelines apply to K-12 schools. Learn more about how CDPHE is incorporating these recommendations into Colorado K-12 school settings here.  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:

  • Confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases 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. LCDHE may issue isolation letters to students and staff who are identified as probable or confirmed COVID cases.

  • 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.  

Quarantine: 

Effective 2/28/2022 contact tracing for routine and high-risk school related exposures will not occur in K-12 schools participating in the routine disease control model. LCDHE may recommend contact tracing during a cluster assessment (3 or more cases in a 10 day period). Students or staff who are identified as close contacts as part of a household exposure should continue to follow quarantine guidelines.

  • If contact tracing is performed, students who are within 6 feet of a positive case for >15 minutes when either the ill or exposed person are not masked may be considered close contacts and quarantine may be required unless the exposed person meets at least one of the following criteria:
    • Ages 12 or older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people. 
    • Ages 5-11 years and completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines. 
    • Had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days (you tested positive using a viral test) 
    • Participating in Test to Stay OR weekly serial testing and will continue to participate for at least 2 additional weeks.

If these criteria are met, students do not need to quarantine (stay home) but must wear a mask around others for 10 days and should get tested 5 days after exposure or immediately if symptoms develop. 

  • Exposed individuals who do not meet the exemption criteria outlined above must quarantine for 5 days from the date of last exposure. If they have not developed symptoms after their exposure, the quarantined individual should test on day 5 and must wear a well fitting mask when around others for 5 additional days after discontinuing quarantine. 
    • In situations where it is not feasible for a quarantined contact to reliably wear a 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 their liaison to determine if masking requirements can be met in order to utilize this shortened isolation period. 
  • Lunches held indoors will be treated the same as routine classroom exposures since lunch is a necessary part of in-person learning.
  • Students or staff may be asked to remain out of the sport/activity and/or class while contact tracing is performed. 

LCDHE will support any schools who opt in to the CDPHE Test to Stay program. This program is being offered as an alternative to quarantine for school based exposures and will help support in person learning.

Test to stay is not an acceptable alternative to quarantine for household exposures. A school or district may choose whether to include students who have a community-based, non-household exposure in their program.

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 5 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 are highly recommended for all classrooms and whenever possible in high-risk activities such as PE, band, choir, and other electives to allow for targeted contact tracing where possible. If no seating charts or rosters are available to LCDHE, entire classrooms/activities may be required to quarantine. Outdoor lessons are also strongly encouraged for classes where it is appropriate and when weather allows.
  • Schools and classes will not require students to remain in cohorts; however, cohorting students can reduce the number of exposures and quarantines in the event of a COVID-19 case.
    There are currently no distancing requirements; however, if desks and spacing in classrooms can be 3 feet, schools should try to accomplish this. In all other settings, 6 feet of distance between individuals is recommended.
  • 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.

LCDHE recommends the following considerations in music, choir and performing arts:

  • Reinforce use of masks by all students and staff when not singing or playing an instrument that requires the use of their mouth (unless class is outdoors, and distance can be maintained)
  • Consider conducting the class in an outdoor/open environment or under an open tent
    If the class is held indoors, ensure the ventilation system is optimized in terms of  flow rate and filtration. Refer to the
  • Ventilation section above for more information.
  • Limit the number of students at one time in storage and backstage areas.
  • Install transparent shields or other physical barriers, where possible, to separate the students and staff.
  • Maintain physical distancing where possible to protect students and staff.
    • Modify or adjust seating arrangements during music classes to allow for a minimum of 6 feet between students and music teachers.
  • Limit exchange (or sharing) of any instruments, parts, music sheets, or any other items.
  • Install cleanable, transparent shields or other barriers to physically separate music staff and students.
  • Use disposable absorbent pads or other receptacles, where possible, to catch the contents of spit valves. Discard and clean properly after use.
  • Consider using “bell covers” for the openings of brass instruments and specially designed bags with hand openings for woodwind instruments to minimize the generation of droplets and aerosols.
  • Limit, where possible, sharing of props, costumes, and wigs.
  • Clean and disinfect dressing rooms, green rooms, and production areas 
  • Consider holding virtual or outdoor performances instead of indoor, in-person performances

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.

  • Encourage symptom screenings prior to the event and notify individuals if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms they should stay home
  • Ask individuals about any exposures to COVID-19 in the past 14 days, and if reported, ask them to stay home from the event
  • Cohort attendees as much as possible, including during transportation to and from the event/venue and in sleeping areas if the event or trip is overnight, to limit the number of potential exposures
  • For indoor events where seating is appropriate, assigned seating is recommended to allow for contact tracing
  • Ensure contact information is available for all attendees, including name, email and phone number. In the event of an exposure, contact tracing will be based on the LCDHE's interview with the positive person, and mass notifications may be sent to all attendees notifying them of the potential exposure
  • Collect/determine vaccination status of attendees prior to the event to assist in determining whether quarantines will be required for attendees in the event of an exposure
  • Notify individuals who are not up to date on their vaccinations, or who do not have evidence of a previous positive COVID-19 test in the past 90 days, that they may be required to quarantine for a minimum of 5 days if an exposure occurs at the event
  • If possible, hold the event outdoors. If it is not possible to host the event outdoors, use strategies (or ensure the venue is using strategies) outlined in the CDPHE Ventilation, HVAC systems and COVID-19 risks document.
  • Establish single-direction traffic flow in and out of venue and seating areas
  • Consider separate entrances and exits for attendees
  • Create a queue at entrances that allows for 6 feet of physical distancing between individuals and pace entry to prevent congestion
  • If transporting individuals on bus rides longer than 15 minutes, space individuals apart at least 6 feet. As a reminder, face coverings are required on any public transportation per this federal order.
  • Ensure handwashing stations are available. If handwashing is not available, ensure sanitizer stations are available
  • Ensure space and resources are available to isolate ill staff and students at the venue (e.g., cots, bedding, restrooms, and supervision

COVID-19 Requirements and Recommendations in Larimer County K-12 settings 
Effective 4/18/2022

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).

- Given the much greater risk of household exposures compared to non-household exposures, schools must continue to follow quarantine guidance for students and staff who report household exposures.
 

-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.

- If deemed necessary by LCDHE, conduct contact tracing for the impacted cohort to determine if quarantine is necessary. Several individual level protections exist as an alternative to quarantine
 

Recommendations Recommendations

- Continue to support regular mask use by staff and students. CDC and CDPHE continue to recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status and at all transmission levels**

- 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).

- Enroll in the Test to Stay COVID-19 School Testing Program as an important alternative to quarantine. 

- 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, cohorting students, increased ventilation and filtration, increased disinfection, increased hand hygiene awareness, etc.)

-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 Stay 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 or quarantine 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 or quarantine. 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.