Jeffco Schools, Jefferson County Public Health partner for COVID-19 safety

Recently, the Jeffco Public Education Network reached out to to Jefferson County Public Health to better understand how JCPH will partner with Jeffco Schools to keep students, teachers, and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jefferson County COVID-19 data and information is available on the JCPH website.

Jeffco Schools, JCPH partnership

“JCPH will be working closely with Jeffco Public Schools to ensure compliance with all public health requirements and guidance, ” said Dr. Mark Johnson, JCPH Executive Director.

“JCPH is hiring an epidemiologist whose main job will be to work with Jeffco Public Schools on these issues and concerns,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that “Jeffco Public Schools leadership has participated in numerous discussions with JCPH and other public health leaders in Colorado regarding various models and numerous reports from around the world.”

Quarantine and COVID Testing

The Jeffco Schools Restart Plan states that Jeffco will provide for “rapid availability testing” for symptomatic staff and students or those who believe they were exposed to the virus.”

Rapid testing could mitigate the long turnaround times people have experienced. Recent news reports have stated it can take up to 12 days to receive results.

School Quarantines

“A presumed positive COVID-19 case will be treated just like a confirmed case and will be isolated until 10 days after first symptoms AND 24 hours without fever (without fever reducing medication) AND improved symptoms,” Johnson said. 

“Those who have been in ‘close contact’ with a presumptive case will be quarantined for 14 days or until they become symptomatic or test positive wherein they will be treated as a confirmed case,” he added.

JCPH defines close contact as a person who:

  • Was within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 (even if they did not have symptoms) for at least 15 minutes total
  • Provided care for someone who is sick with COVID-19
  • Had direct physical contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19
  • Shared eating or drinking utensils with someone who is sick with COVID-19
  • Got respiratory droplets from someone who is sick with COVID-19 on them (through sneezing, coughing, shouting, etc.)
  • Was in the same class class/cohort as anyone who has (or is assumed to have) COVID-19. 

Close contact also includes anyone who was within 6 feet of someone who has or is presumed to have COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes.

To mitigate exposure during passing periods, Jeffco is shortening student passing periods in many schools.

Smaller cohorts will result in fewer students being quarantined if anyone in a school has or is presumed to have COVID-19.

CDPHE quarantine guidelines

The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) published quarantine guidelines in July: 

  • One student or teacher probable/confirmed COVID: class/cohort quarantine for 14 days
  • Two or more students or teachers probable/confirmed COVID in different classes/cohorts: affected classes/cohorts quarantine for 14 days; if school not using cohorts, all close contacts quarantine for 14 days
  • 5 percent or more of students/staff probable/confirmed COVID in 14-day period: CDPHE recommends closing school for 14 days
  • Five or more classrooms/cohorts with a probable/confirmed COVID case: CDPHE recommends closing school for 14 days
  • Stay at home order issued for county or state: the school district must return to remote learning for duration of stay at home order

“Negative testing does not release a person from quarantine,” Johnson said. “The length of a quarantine period (14 days) is based on the conservative length of an incubation period.”

If someone who is quarantined becomes ill with COVID-19, the isolation period increases to 10 days after first symptoms as well as 24 hours without fever (without fever reducing medication) and improved symptoms.

Jeffco quarantine guidelines

There are other scenarios that could force quarantines, such as illnesses among student or staff family members.

While other districts, such as Denver Public Schools, have worked on scenario planning, Jeffco will address each case individually.

“Jeffco Public Schools, in collaboration with JCPH, will make decisions relating to quarantining based on the facts and the individual circumstances,” Johnson said.

Jeffco Schools facilities, masks

According to Johnson, Jeffco Schools has audited the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system at every Jeffco school. 

Although JCPH has not audited those systems, the Restart Plan states that all schools have ventilation systems designed to bring in fresh air. The amount of outdoor air in all systems has been increased by 50-100% over prior levels.

Air in classrooms and other spaces is renewed, refreshed, and filtered 7.5 to 10 times per hour, according to the Restart Plan.

Jeffco Schools will be requiring students, teachers and staff, with a few medical exceptions, to wear masks while in schools. Students who do not want to wear masks can opt for remote learning.

Changes to the original Restart Plan were announced on July 23. Those changes include beginning on Aug. 24 with two weeks of remote learning for all grades.

In-person learning is currently anticipated to begin on Sept. 8. At that time, plans call for full-time, full-capacity learning for preschool and K-5/6 students, and hybrid options for middle and high school students.

Students at any grade level may also choose 100 percent remote learning. More details are available on the Jeffco Schools Restart Plan page.

Thia Lynne

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