JCPH issues Public Health Order requiring masks for everyone 2+ in schools and childcare settings

Jefferson County, Colo. — Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) today released Public Health Order 21-002, which requires everyone ages 2 and older to wear a mask when indoors at all schools and school-based extracurricular activities as well as all childcare settings in Jefferson County. Additionally, the Order requires all unvaccinated faculty and staff, as well as all unvaccinated students and adults who are participating in school-based extracurricular activities, to undergo routine testing during the academic year. The purpose of the Order is to protect health and preserve in-person learning in the county. The Order is effective tomorrow, August 17, 2021 and will remain in effect until rescinded, superseded or amended.

“Over the past few weeks, we have seen schools that do not require masking in other parts of the country be required to send large numbers of students home to quarantine and even close schools. While our department released very strong guidance to Jeffco schools and childcare settings recommending they require mask-wearing, unfortunately too few schools and childcares have adopted this safe and effective mitigation strategy,” said Dr. Dawn Comstock, Executive Director, JCPH. “Due to the highly transmissible Delta variant now driving a surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in our county, coupled with insufficient vaccination coverage in schoolchildren, we must act now to prevent unnecessary illness and help protect in-person learning and educational experiences as much as possible. Despite heroic efforts by Jeffco teachers and schools to offer remote learning, last year far too many students struggled with academic achievement, social development and mental wellness. The goal shared by Jeffco parents, school leaders and public health leaders is to protect in-person learning.”

In Jefferson County from August 2-8, 2021, there were 535 new cases (91.8 per 100,000 residents) of COVID-19, compared to only 110 new cases (18.9 per 100,000 residents) from July 2-8, 2021. Cases have increased rapidly over the past month for both children and adults. Most new cases are among people who are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, and at this time, 41.2% of those ages 12-15 and 37.4% of those ages 16-19 have not received even one dose of vaccine. Children under 12 are also vulnerable as they are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Based on sample testing, it’s estimated that the Delta variant is responsible for nearly 100% of COVID-19 cases in Colorado. The Delta variant, which is twice as infectious as prior strains, appears to have a greater impact on children ages 19 and under as compared to past strains of the virus.

“We learned a great deal firsthand during the 2020-21 school year in Jeffco, and a wealth of scientific studies have proven that universal mask policies are safe and very effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19 in schools,” Comstock said. “Requiring masking indoors for everyone, combined with implementing a testing policy and promoting vaccination, will help reduce the virus in these high-density indoor settings, prevent outbreaks and minimize disruptive quarantines and isolations. Keeping kids in school is something we all want, and with some simple but important steps, we can preserve this next school year for our Jeffco youth.”

In addition to masking and testing requirements outlined in PHO 21-002, JCPH strongly recommends all schools and childcare settings follow JCPH’s Guidance for Schools and Childcares. JCPH’s Order and guidance aligns with CDC’s guidance which recommends universal masking for childcare and Pre-K-12 education for all individuals while indoors, regardless of vaccination status, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation for universal masking in school and childcare settings.

Summary of Requirements for Schools and Childcares in Jeffco

  • Masks for all individuals ages 2+ indoors in all schools, childcares and school-based extracurricular activities
  • Implement a COVID-19 testing policy by September 7, 2021, requiring all unvaccinated faculty and staff to be tested weekly throughout the school year
  • Implement a COVID-19 testing policy by September 7, 2021, requiring all unvaccinated students and adults participating in school-based extracurricular activities to be tested weekly
  • Post signage that masks are required at their facilities (signage provided in the Order)
  • Enforcement of quarantine for individuals who are unvaccinated and unmasked when exposed to an individual case, and enforcement of quarantine for all unvaccinated individuals — masked and unmasked — who are exposed in outbreaks
  • Enforcement of isolation for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19
  • Cooperation in case investigations and contact tracing
  • Social distancing of at least six feet when masks are removed as permitted in the Order (e.g., When students are eating and drinking at meal times indoors)

Summary of Recommendations for Schools and Childcares in Jeffco

  • Promoting vaccinations to increase coverage among eligible students, faculty and staff
  • Require vaccinations for faculty and staff, as well as all adults and eligible students participating in school-based sports and extracurricular activities
  • Follow additional recommendations outlined in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Back to School Roadmap to layer as many additional precautionary measures as feasible to keep students, faculty and staff safe

For more information about PHO 21-002 and complete requirements for schools and childcares, view the full Order. You can also refer to Frequently Asked Questions.

About Jefferson County Public Health

Public health is what we do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is a nationally accredited health department committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan for all people through prevention, education and partnerships. To learn more about JCPH visit www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH, Instagram @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth.

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