DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado is working with school districts on student testing to help slow the rising spread of COVID-19 among young children.
The state’s positivity rate is inching up, as well as overall hospitalizations.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Tuesday that 20% of available intensive care unit beds are still more than enough capacity to treat COVID patients. But they are most concerned about the rise in covid cases among children.
Leaders say the spike among children started in July before the new school year, but transmission in schools is helping to fuel the spread. As a result, the state is teaming up with parents and districts to get more kids tested.
COVID-19 in children ages 6-11 highest since start of pandemic
“The rate that we are seeing in 6-11-year-olds is actually the highest that rate has been since the beginning of the pandemic,” state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said.
Doctors do not want that rate to get any higher.
“The most important thing parents can do is limit their children’s exposure to the COVID virus, and that means the same thing we’ve been saying all along: socially distancing when possible, wearing masks at all times and frequently washing their hands,” said Dr. Reggie Washington, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children’s chief medical officer.
Washington said those are behaviors that need to start at home, especially for those under age 12 who cannot get vaccinated. But older kids need to be careful too.
“Similarly, we have seen rates in that 12-17-year-old group that have been this high before. But right now, I think what stands out to me is that our children 6-11 year-olds and 12-17 years old are really where we are seeing the highest rates of disease transmission in the state,” Herlihy said.
Doctors urge parents to watch for signs of other illnesses besides COVID-19
Health leaders are working to provide weekly testing.
“Our goal is to provide all resources necessary to the schools and districts in order to provide weekly testing,” said Sarah Hamma, CDPHE COVID community testing and vendor partnerships branch chief.
Doctors warn parents to watch for signs of other illnesses, too.
“I would discourage someone from going to get a test if their child is sick and then saying, ‘Well the test is negative, so my child is going to be OK.’ When in fact, they may have some other serious infection,” Washington said. “So I would encourage anybody who thinks their child needs a COVID test to be seen by a healthcare provider to ensure that’s the appropriate step to be taking.”
So far, the state said 447 schools are working with them to get student testing up and running.
We reached out to several districts in the metro area. Jefferson County Public Schools will participate. Denver Public Schools is looking into it, but Cherry Creek, Douglas County and Aurora Public Schools all said they are not participating at this point.