Outbreak information

COVID-19 update
Posted on 11/09/2020
D51 Staff & Families,

We are twelve weeks into in-person learning and have successfully kept schools open by following COVID-19 guidelines to quarantine small groups of students and staff whenever a positive case is identified. Through contact tracing, we are able to determine that a majority of those staff and students who caught COVID-19 were exposed to the virus outside of a school setting. Steps such as tracking symptoms, quarantining staff and students, thorough cleaning and disinfecting, and occasionally transitioning to remote learning temporarily are measures to keep those cases out of schools so we can continue with in-person learning.

However, cases are on the rise in our community, and we should all expect that to have a direct impact on our schools. More positive cases in our community mean more of our staff and students are becoming ill, and their close contacts are being quarantined as a precaution. Unfortunately, we now have five schools that are considered to have outbreaks. While that may conjure images of many people getting sick and infecting others, there is a low threshold for how many cases constitute an outbreak, and not all cases within a building are linked.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment defines an outbreak as “four or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a facility or non-household group during a 14 day period.” Though each of these situations are under control, the status of the outbreak will remain active until 28 days have passed with no new illness.

The following schools will be listed on the Mesa County Public Health and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment websites as active outbreaks because four or more cases were identified at these locations within two weeks:

East Middle School
Fruita Monument High School
Grand Junction High School
Independence Academy
Orchard Ave Elementary

This may raise concerns and questions about the need to go remote on a larger scale. Schools are considered an essential service in Colorado, which allows districts the ability to work closely with their local health departments to examine each situation on an individual basis and respond appropriately. There is no set number or percentage of cases that will automatically trigger a transition to remote learning. In most cases, remote learning is needed due to the amount of staff members quarantining as a precaution and the lack of substitutes to fill those positions, not an amount of positive cases.

We believe that in-person learning provides many benefits to students that cannot be replicated remotely: things like access to meals or social and emotional support. Though staff and students have tested positive, very few of those cases have occurred within a school setting, so our transmissions within schools are low.

This recent surge in cases locally shows us that the pandemic isn’t over, and we need to be more vigilant now than we ever have been. With flu season well underway, illness is becoming more prevalent, and we can all take measures to protect ourselves and others. Measures are in place at the schools, across the district, and in our community to slow the spread of COVID-19 and identify illness early, but we need your help - please visit health.mesacounty.us for tips on COVID-19 prevention and help us keep our schools open for the students who need it most.

Thank you,
Mesa County Valley School District 51
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