Practical guide for operationalizing CDC’s school guidance

Updated September 7, 2022.

Effective August 10, 2022.

Languages available: Español

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Summary of most recent changes

Updates as of August 10, 2022

  • While this school year’s COVID-19 guidance for K-12 and child care settings has no new requirements, we have simplified it to further align with routine response to other infectious illnesses. This transition began with the last school guidance update in February of 2022.
  • Instead of a statewide, one-size-fits-all approach, schools will work directly with their local public health partners to make decisions about mitigation strategies in response to increases in cases and absenteeism that align with their local communities and conditions.
  • Masking and quarantine in K-12 settings following routine classroom exposures are only recommended as part of a mitigation strategy put in place to slow transmission when cases are increasing, outbreaks are detected, community levels are escalating, or at the discretion of the school, district, or local public health agency. Students, staff, and volunteers who test positive should isolate
  • As such, this update removes the statewide criteria for reduced quarantine following routine classroom exposures. Schools and child care facilities should continue to alert students, staff, and parents of known classroom cases, outbreaks, and exposures so all individuals are appropriately informed, will monitor closely for symptoms, and may choose to increase personal mitigation measures as necessary.
  • It remains important that all schools and child care facilities remind staff, students, and parents to stay up to date with vaccinations, stay home when sick, test when symptomatic, and isolate if they test positive for COVID-19. Under Colorado’s Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, Coloradans are entitled to paid time off from work for COVID-related needs. Schools and child care facilities should notify students, staff, and parents whenever they detect signs of increasing cases of infectious disease or outbreaks to ensure those individuals can make informed decisions about their own health and well-being and protect their loved ones.
  • In accordance with long-standing regulations, school and child care facilities are required to establish written policies for monitoring and addressing illnesses and absenteeism that indicate transmission among students and staff, report cases, and work with their local public health partners to address and slow the transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases within their facilities.
  • Additionally, all schools and child care facilities are encouraged to continually maintain and improve the ventilation within their building using the many tools, resources, and funding now available.

Updates as of February 11, 2022

Updates as of February 01, 2022

  • Added Test to Stay guidance as an additional alternative to quarantine for students and staff who are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, but have been identified as school-associated close contacts to an individual with COVID-19.
  • Included a Test to Stay decision tree for staff and parents in the tools section of the guidance.

Updates as of January 20, 2022

  • Aligned with CDC’s  updated definition of “up to date” on COVID-19 vaccinations. When CDC released updated school guidance on January 6, 2022, the definition of “up to date” included 12-17 year old children who completed their primary series, regardless of third (booster) dose status. Now, the definition only considers children who are 12-17 years old as “up to date” if they have received a third (booster) dose. Children younger than 12 years of age are not yet eligible for third (booster) doses and are considered up to date after completion of the primary series. Up to date status is used to determine whether quarantine is needed after an exposure.
  • Clarified that eligible Colorado students, in addition to educators, have until February 1, 2022 to receive third (booster) doses if they have not done so already. Until that date, students and staff who have completed their primary vaccine series, but have not yet received a third dose, may return to school or work following exposure if they obtain a negative test and wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days after exposure. They should get tested again on day five after exposure. Additionally, students and staff will be considered up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations immediately after they have received their third dose; they do not have to wait 14 days after vaccination.

Updates as of January 7, 2022 

  • Aligned with CDC’s new recommendations for five-day isolation and quarantine and new Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools.
  • Clarified that Colorado students and educators have until February 1, 2022 to receive third (booster) doses if they have not done so already. Until that date, staff who have completed their primary vaccine series but have not yet received a third dose may return to work following exposure if they obtain a negative test and wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days after exposure. They should get tested again on day five after exposure. Additionally, staff will be considered up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations immediately after they have received their third dose; they do not have to wait 14 days after vaccination.
  • Clarified the definition of and special considerations for Early Care Education.
  • Added a definition of the Test to Stay program, which will be operationalized February 1, 2022.

Colorado is following CDC’s recommendations for schools. This guide is designed to help schools operationalize and clarify CDC’s recommendations.

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Executive Summary

Colorado schools have done a tremendous job keeping their staff and students safe and in school during these past few years. While COVID-19 will continue to cause illness and some disruptions for the foreseeable future, we are building on our success this spring and further implementing routine disease response for COVID-19 in schools. 

To preserve in-person learning and minimize the impacts on families and the greater community, schools are encouraged to continue a layered approach to controlling the transmission of all communicable diseases among staff and students. Many simple strategies support healthy, uninterrupted school and child care, including encouraging equitable access to vaccinations and testing and reminding students and staff to stay home when sick, seek testing if symptomatic, and isolate if positive for COVID-19.  

Additionally, all schools in Colorado are subject to the requirements in the Rules and Regulations Governing Schools in the State of Colorado, 6 CCR 1010-6, and child care centers are subject to the requirements of the Rules and Regulations Governing the Health and Sanitation of Child Care Facilities in the State of Colorado, 6 CCR 1010-7. 

Both of these regulations include requirements for maintaining ventilation systems, supporting hand hygiene, implementing written plans for responding to outbreaks and medical emergencies, and following the recommendations outlined in the Infectious Disease Guidelines for Schools and Child Care, including disease reporting requirements. 

Schools and child care facilities should continue to monitor for increases in COVID-19 cases and work with public health when outbreaks of COVID-19 and other communicable illnesses are detected to determine the most appropriate mitigation strategies to control transmission and keep kids in school or care learning and thriving. 

Both local and state public health have statutory, legal and regulatory authority to investigate and control disease transmission, including isolation of cases and quarantine of close contacts, closing public places and prohibiting gathering to control the spread of disease. Statutory citations include but are not limited to 25-1.5-102(1), 25-1-506(3)(b)(V), 25-1-122(2), 25-1.5-101(1)(a),(h),(k) and (l), C.R.S.. Regulatory authority includes, 6 CCR 1009-1, 6 CCR 1010-6 and 6 CCR 1010-7.

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Applicability

This guidance applies to all circumstances where a teacher or caregiver cares for multiple children outside the usual home of the children. These circumstances include, but are not limited to:

  • K-12 schools, both public and private.

  • Licensed child care settings.

  • Home-based family child care settings.

  • License-exempt child care programs such as single skill building and 72-hour camps.

  • Guest child care facilities at ski resorts and courthouses.

  • “Pods” and other home learning/homeschooling groups.

See Special considerations for early childhood education below.

This guide also applies to extracurricular activities, including sports, where the participants are in grades P-12.  

 

Special considerations for early childhood education

Child care and pre-K settings are different from K-12 settings in important ways. The particular facilities, curriculum, and modes of supervision in child care facilities require modifications to guidance developed for K-12 settings. For example, Early Childhood Education (ECE) settings, facilities that care for children aged 0-8 years old, are not always appropriate settings for remaining seated and distanced throughout the day or recalling who a child interacted with. Furthermore, CDPHE and CDC do not recommend children under the age of 2 wear masks, and infants under six months of age are not eligible for vaccination. CDC guidance that pairs shorter isolation durations (days 0-5) with mask use (days 6-10) and replaces quarantine with 10 days of masking plus testing may not be applicable in some early childhood educational settings where mask use is not possible. Additionally, young children are more likely to need feeding, diapering, and holding, and are more likely to nap and sing in their classrooms. In place of masking for children under the age of two years and others who cannot medically tolerate a mask, schools should consider other layered strategies, such as having caregivers wear a mask especially during higher risk activities (holding, feeding, and diapering), improving ventilation, testing, and limiting mixing between groups.

For these reasons, we ask that you take note of special recommendations for pre-K and child care settings throughout this guidance. In the guidance and tools, the term “schools” includes K-12 schools and child care providers, including in-home providers. However, layered mitigation strategies are recommended where young children may not be able to mask or might not be eligible for vaccination. Keeping young children in small, stable cohorts or pods, universal masking for anyone 2 years old and up, and encouraging up-to-date vaccination for all staff and eligible children will reduce the number of close contacts and impacts from isolation. People who cannot wear a mask, including children under 2 years of age and people of any age with certain disabilities, should isolate (if infected) and quarantine (if exposed and if quarantine is recommended by public health) for 10 days.

Residential settings, including overnight camps and group homes, have different transmission characteristics and abilities to isolate and quarantine compared to K-12 schools and other child care settings. These settings should follow the outbreak guidance relevant to their particular circumstances.

 

Definitions

COVID-like symptoms: loss of taste or smell, fever (100.4°F or higher), chills, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, headache, sore throat, muscle or body aches, congestion or runny nose, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea. A person is assumed to be contagious two days before they start having symptoms and for 10 days after symptoms start. In children too young or unable to reliably report their symptoms, caregivers and teachers should monitor for symptoms and other age-appropriate signs of disease, including decreased appetite or activity. All symptomatic individuals should seek clinical evaluation, including testing, as soon as possible after symptoms develop.

Isolation: staying home from work, school, and activities when a person is sick or diagnosed with COVID-19. Most people who do not have symptoms or who have mild symptoms that are improving may return to school and school-associated activities after five full days of isolation. For the five days after isolation, a well-fitting mask must be worn over the mouth and nose while around others. During meals when masking is not possible, extra emphasis should be placed on ventilation and distancing to avoid exposing others. Testing is not required to end isolation. If testing is available, the best approach is to use an antigen test at the end of the five-day isolation period. If the test is positive, isolation should continue through day 10. Individuals who are unable to wear a mask around others should isolate for a full 10 days. In rare circumstances in consultation with a medical provider, people who are severely ill or immunocompromised may require additional testing to determine when they are no longer infectious. Find more information about how to isolate.

Quarantine: staying home from work, school, and activities after a person was in close contact with someone with COVID-19 to avoid infecting others. A person should not attend work, school, or out of school activities if they are asked to quarantine following an exposure. If a person develops symptoms of COVID-19 or tests positive during their quarantine period, they should begin isolation. Quarantine in schools following routine classroom exposures is only recommended as part of a mitigation strategy put in place to slow transmission when cases are increasing, outbreaks are detected, community levels are escalating, or at the discretion of the school, district, or local public health agency. After returning to school following an exposure, a well-fitting mask must be worn over the mouth and nose while around others. During meals when masking is not possible, extra emphasis should be placed on ventilation and distancing to avoid exposing others. 

Close contact: a person who was close enough to a person with COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19 to be at risk of becoming ill. 

Diagnostic COVID-19 test: a test that detects a current COVID-19 infection. These tests include PCR, rapid molecular, and antigen tests. Serology tests can check for evidence of past infection or vaccination, but cannot reliably tell if a person currently has COVID-19 so are not considered diagnostic tests. Learn more about different types of COVID-19 tests.

 

Routine disease control model for COVID-19 in schools

Background: As the youngest Coloradans are eligible for vaccines and COVID-19 surveillance indicators such as CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels stabilize at lower levels, schools should  implement a more typical routine disease control model for disease control in schools. Such a model focuses more on response to clusters of cases, outbreaks, and evidence of ongoing transmission in schools, and less on individual case investigation, contact tracing, and quarantining of staff and students following school exposures. A routine disease control model for COVID-19 more closely aligns COVID-19 efforts with public health response strategies used for other infectious diseases in schools. 

School administrators should be prepared for the emergence of new variants or substantial waning immunity that could once again lead to greater morbidity, mortality, and disruption, and require returning to an individual case investigation approach in schools.

Elements of a routine disease control model for COVID-19 in schools

Routine disease control strategies:

  • Continue to encourage all staff and students to stay up to date with vaccinations.
  • Follow isolation requirements for students and staff who are ill or have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Stay home when experiencing symptoms of illness, including those not related to COVID-19. 
  • Continue to recommend transmission prevention strategies, including testing and masking for staff and students following illness and exposures.
  • Maintain and enhance ventilation of indoor spaces. For resources on ventilation improvements, visit, CDC’s Ventilation in Schools and Childcare Programs webpage.
  • Continue to support mask use by staff and students, even when not required by local public health orders. CDC recommends universal indoor masking for teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status when COVID-19 Community Levels are high and in response to increases in cases or outbreaks among students and staff.
  • Respond to clusters of cases (including increases in respiratory illness) and confirmed outbreaks as described below.
  • Continue to report identified cases and outbreaks to public health as required by Colorado Statute and Regulation (6 CCR 1009-1). 
  • In lieu of individual case investigation and contact tracing, implement new cluster or outbreak detection strategies including public health reporting of school absenteeism data and participation in wastewater surveillance.

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 their LPHA. LPHAs will work closely with schools to determine if an outbreak is suspected and if outbreak response strategies are needed to control transmission.

Recommended COVID-19 school outbreak response strategies:

  • Limit mixing of impacted grades, classrooms, or other groups during meals, recess, and other gatherings to limit spread while a school is experiencing an outbreak.
  • Universal masking of staff and students on a temporary basis. Implementation of masking can be done at the classroom, grade, or school level depending on the extent of transmission and structure of the school. 
  • Temporary universal testing of staff and students. Implementation of testing can be done at the classroom, grade, or school level depending on the extent of transmission and structure of the school. Schools can use tests available through CDPHE’s School Testing Program to identify asymptomatic cases quickly and slow transmission. CDPHE recommends the following testing strategy to preserve in-person learning to the greatest degree.
    • A first round of testing should be implemented as soon as possible, ideally within one week of detection of the suspected outbreak.
    • Two rounds of testing are recommended for outbreak control but school administrators and LPHAs should consider the extent of transmission and the number of new cases identified through initial testing when determining the duration of outbreak response activities, including testing.
    • Based on capacity and local circumstances, school administrators and LPHAs may choose to implement testing for all staff and students regardless of vaccination and recent infection status.

 

Prioritizing in-person learning

We must continue to support and prioritize uninterrupted, full-time, in-person learning in all communities. Therefore, Colorado has moved from an individual case-based response strategy to a transmission mitigation strategy, where instead of quarantining students and staff after individual exposures, the risk of the whole school community, including the risk of interruptions to learning, is considered.

Preventive measures

The state continues to recommend a layered approach of best practices for COVID-19 prevention. These best practices are described in detail in the CDC’s Operational Guidance for K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs to Support Safe In-Person Learning, and include vaccination, ventilation, maximization of outdoor activities, sick leave policies, mask-wearing, testing, cleaning and disinfecting, and handwashing. These policies will continue to be important for preventing the transmission of all diseases in schools.

Mask-wearing

CDC recommends indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, when CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels are high and when a school or child care facility has identified cases or outbreaks of COVID-19 among staff or students. Additionally, mask use is an essential component of CDC guidance that pairs shorter isolation durations (days 0-5) with mask use (days 6-10) and recommended precautions following exposure. If staff or students are unable to wear a mask on days 6-10 following isolation, then isolation should continue for a full 10 days.

Those who cannot medically tolerate a mask should work with their school administration to assess the need for a reasonable accommodation in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additional information regarding reasonable accommodations can also be found in the State’s Civil Rights Guidance. Both state and local public health have the authority to issue public health orders requiring masks, and include within those orders any allowable exceptions to the mask requirement. For settings in which masks are required by the State, exceptions include temporary removal of a mask to participate in a life rite or religious service where such temporary removal is necessary for participation; there is no broader general exemption from wearing a mask for religious or personal belief in the state public health orders. In addition, even when not required by local public health or a school district, staff and students may choose to wear masks. Schools and school districts should ensure that every classroom is a welcome environment for students and staff who choose to protect themselves in this manner. 

Improving ventilation 

COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses are spread through respiratory droplets that are produced when we breathe, talk, sneeze, or cough. Improving ventilation by increasing air exchanges and filtration assists with the dilution of contaminants that might be present, including respiratory droplets. Schools can improve ventilation in a number of ways. 

Existing HVAC systems should be maintained in good working order, and should run for at least 30 minutes before and after the building is occupied. 

Schools without existing HVAC systems or inadequate systems can open windows during the school day to increase ventilation and air flow. 

Additionally HEPA filters can be added to an existing HVAC system and portable HEPA filters can be added to areas to filter out contaminants from the air. 

Outdoor activities are strongly encouraged, especially for higher risk activities and meal times. 

Additional resources on improving ventilation

Isolation of positive cases

Ensuring sick people stay home (and people with COVID-19 follow isolation requirements, regardless of vaccination status) is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Isolation of positive cases is required and must be enforced by local public health and school districts. 

Monitoring and communication

While students and staff are not required to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19, they should wear a well-fitting mask around others and monitor themselves for symptoms for 10 days. They should also get tested at least five days after exposure or if symptoms develop. For those who are under the age of two years or medically unable to wear a mask, schools should work with public health to determine what other layered strategies can be used such as asking the teachers or caregivers working directly with the individual to wear a mask, especially during higher risk close contact (holding, feeding, diapering), improving ventilation, and limiting crowding and mixing between groups. 

Schools and child care facilities should continue to alert students, staff, and parents of known classroom cases, outbreaks, and exposures so all individuals are appropriately informed, will monitor closely for symptoms, and may choose to increase personal mitigation measures as necessary when living or working with vulnerable individuals (e.g. a high school student who volunteers in a nursing home or who lives with an immunosuppressed relative). 

Parent letter templates can be used to notify parents of COVID-19 cases and exposures in schools:

Quarantine for routine classroom exposures

Quarantine in K-12 settings following routine classroom exposures is no longer recommended unless it is part of a mitigation strategy put in place at the discretion of the school, district, or local public health agency when cases are increasing, outbreaks are detected, or community levels are escalating.

Higher risk exposures

Several close contact situations would be considered higher risk exposures to COVID-19. Local public health may have a heightened risk approach to these higher risk exposures, which could include quarantine of exposed individuals who are unvaccinated or not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. These exposures may pose significantly higher risk than typical activities within a classroom. Examples include: 

  • Indoor or high contact athletic competitions.
  • Evaluating or assessing ill students or staff.
  • Performing an aerosol-generating procedure.
  • Caring for a young child (feeding, holding, or diapering).
  • Interactions between young children where it is not age appropriate to remain seated or physically distanced. 
  • Indoor forced exhalation activities such as singing, exercising, or playing a wind or brass instrument. 

This is not an exhaustive list, and public health authorities can assist with determining whether or not quarantine is necessary after a particular exposure. Schools should discuss these more complex cases with their local public health agency.

Staff and students who are exposed to a case of COVID-19 outside of the school classroom, including social settings, athletics, workplaces, and household exposures, may be required to quarantine, pursuant to statutory and regulatory public health authority if necessary to control transmission in schools. Students participating in high-risk activities (such as unmasked indoor athletic competitions) and individuals who are at higher risk for severe infection are strongly encouraged to get all recommended vaccine doses for their own protection.

Individuals at higher risk for severe disease

Individuals should discuss their personal risk factors with their health care providers. Individuals determined to be at higher risk for severe disease should get vaccinated with all recommended doses as soon as they are eligible in consultation with their health care provider. If individuals are not eligible for vaccination, or vaccination is not medically advised, serial testing and masking indoors is strongly recommended. Schools may consider universal masking requirements, ventilation improvements, and other protective measures when they serve or employ large numbers of high-risk or vulnerable individuals. 

COVID-19 testing 

Schools are encouraged to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 testing for students and staff. Accessible testing can help schools slow COVID-19 transmission and reduce disruptions to in-person learning.

School districts may opt into CDPHE’s free and voluntary statewide screening testing program. If a school or school district is interested in enrolling in this program, please contact cdphe_schooltesting@state.co.us

To complement the screening testing program, CDPHE is also providing the COVID-19 Test to Know program for the 2022-2023 school year. The program empowers schools to administer Point-of-Care rapid antigen tests in school and distribute over-the-counter rapid antigen test kits to students, staff, and volunteers to use in non-school settings.

Additionally, testing is available at community testing sites throughout Colorado. To find a location near you, visit CDPHE’s Find a COVID-19 test webpage.

Federal testing supplies are also available through CDC’s Operation Expanded Testing program.

Resources for those testing for COVID-19 at home can be found on CDPHE’s What should I do if I test positive? and Learn about testing pages.

Positive cases and outbreaks

As described above, all positive cases will be required to isolate and stay home for at least five days to protect others, pursuant to statutory and regulatory public health authority. Once a school has an outbreak that impacts multiple classrooms, school leadership should work with their local public health authority to determine what additional mitigation strategies may be necessary. Additional mitigation strategies may include: universal masking indoors, distancing, testing and contact tracing, and quarantine for close contacts. Persons returning to school on days 6-10 following isolation or after a known exposure 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.

Caveat: Variants of Concern circulating in communities could impact population-based strategies to reduce spread. 

Variants of COVID-19

CDC and CDPHE are actively monitoring the impact that variants of the COVID-19 virus may have on communities and individuals. The state is closely evaluating  variants that may cause more severe disease, could be more contagious, or may have a greater potential to infect those who are vaccinated or who have recently been infected with COVID-19. 

All variants of COVID-19 spread through exhaled viral particles generated by sick people, and the same protective measures that have helped keep students safe in schools throughout the past year, like masking, vaccination, practicing good hand and respiratory hygiene, among others, will continue to be effective.

More information about COVID-19 variants is available from CDC.

 

Encouraging vaccinations in schools

Vaccines are our best defense against COVID-19 and many other preventable diseases. Schools are encouraged to educate their communities about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

Resources for schools to educate their communities about the COVID-19 vaccine

CDPHE has developed many vaccination resources to support this effort and added information about COVID-19 vaccines to our online vaccine education module

CDPHE is prepared to support schools who wish to host a vaccination event for their students, faculty, and staff. For more information or to request event support, see the Event Based Vaccination Request Form

Additional resource are available, including testimonials, talking points, social media graphics, and more, to help schools communicate effectively with their communities about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines: 

The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have additional resources about the COVID-19 vaccines:

Verifying vaccination status 

Schools can verify the vaccination status of their students using the Colorado Immunization Information System (CIIS) without written consent. Per FERPA, written consent must be obtained if a school wants to enter vaccination data for a student into CIIS. Statute does not permit schools to use CIIS to verify the vaccination status of employees or staff.

Acceptable proof of COVID-19 vaccination

Acceptable proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be the same as school-required vaccines. A student or staff member may provide the vaccination card that includes the name of the provider, name of the patient, date, type of vaccine, and lot number. For students who received their vaccine in Colorado, the school may verify proof of vaccination with CIIS. Schools do not need written consent to look up vaccination records in CIIS. Students who receive their vaccination outside of Colorado may provide both their vaccination cards and/or IIS records from the state where they received their shots.

Additionally, CDPHE has added COVID-19 vaccines to the “recommended vaccines” section of the official Colorado Certificate of Immunization to better enable incoming students to share records of their immunizations with their school. 

Colorado public school COVID-19 vaccination rates dashboard

Colorado’s K-12 public school COVID-19 vaccination data dashboard will continue to be a resource for families, schools, local public health agencies, health care providers, and other partners, and will be updated to show data for the 2022-2023 school year. COVID-19 vaccination rates at the district, school, and grade levels can help parents/guardians/caregivers, educators, and school staff make informed decisions about mitigation practices they may want to consider for their children and/or themselves. This is especially important for parents of children with weakened immune systems and educators/school staff with immunocompromising conditions.

 

Reporting

Per 6 CCR 1009-1, clinical labs and/or health care providers are required to report COVID-19 test results to public health. If school personnel perform and interpret rapid testing on-site, they are functioning as a clinical lab and are required to report all positive results. Per 6 CCR 1009-1 schools and child care facilities are also required to report single cases of which they become aware to public health, even if testing was performed elsewhere. COVID-19 and other conditions named in Appendix A of CCR 1009-1 (Reportable Diseases, Conditions, and Related Event Table) are declared to be potentially dangerous to public health and  schools are able to disclose information needed for disease control to public health without prior written consent under FERPA’s health or safety emergency exception. This is true even if there is not an outbreak.

CDC no longer recommends universal case investigation and contact tracing for COVID-19. Public health may interview people who have COVID-19 and conduct contact tracing to determine who might be close contacts of the case if necessary to inform disease control recommendations to mitigate transmission during an outbreak, but this will not happen in all situations.

Schools and child care providers are required to report all outbreaks to their local public health agency or CDPHE within four hours per 6 CCR 1009-1.

Schools and child care providers must report both suspected and confirmed outbreaks.
Schools and child care providers can report outbreaks by:

  • Filling out the CDPHE COVID-19 outbreak report form and sending it to the local public health agency (via web form or emailing the PDF form).
  • Calling their local public health agency.
  • Calling CDPHE at 303-692-2700.

 

Other respiratory infections

COVID-19 spreads via the same mechanisms as influenza, RSV, and other important respiratory illnesses. Therefore, the same strategies that schools have used to protect students and staff from COVID-19 also slow the spread of these other diseases. These include:

  • Getting a COVID-19 and influenza vaccine as soon as possible.
  • Encouraging students and staff to stay home when sick or potentially contagious.
  • Improving indoor ventilation through increased air exchanges and filtration.
  • Wearing a mask indoors.
  • Practicing good hand and respiratory hygiene.
  • Cleaning shared spaces and objects appropriately. 
  • Notifying students, staff, and parents of known classroom cases, outbreaks, and exposures so all individuals are appropriately informed, will monitor closely for symptoms, and may choose to increase personal mitigation measures as necessary.

Additionally, these diseases share many symptoms and it is not always possible to distinguish these illnesses from one another based on symptoms alone, even for experienced medical providers. Therefore, testing is important for anyone with symptoms of a respiratory infection to help guide an appropriate disease response. 

 

Consideration for travel and school breaks

Travel may put individuals at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, especially those that are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations. Travel may involve crowded public vehicles and spaces, where close contact with a high number of unique contacts with unknown vaccination status may occur.

The same layered mitigation strategies used in schools are recommended when traveling, especially those who are not yet up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations. Masking is recommended for anyone two years old and older in crowded indoor spaces, and is strongly recommended on public transportation and in transportation hubs by CDC.

Families and staff should be encouraged to get all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses before traveling and to use layered mitigation strategies to stay safe. After returning, students and staff should monitor for symptoms and get tested if symptoms develop. 

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Tools

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For more information or questions regarding school guidance,
please contact CDPHE_COVID_School_Childcare@state.co.us or scan the QR code below.

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