El Paso County school district not voluntarily reporting COVID cases, not requiring masks

Local News

A rendering of coronavirus via the CDC.

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — According to District 49, it will not voluntarily report COVID cases or assist in contact tracing claiming it is “designed to direct healthy individuals into quarantine and isolation.”

The district claims after a year of strict COVID protocols not one child died from the coronavirus and the aggressive approach did more damage to the children’s mental health.

“It is our judgement, backed by months of student and community observation and interaction, with corresponding experiential data, that the risks of quarantine far outweigh the risks of the disease. That is why we will not facilitate voluntary reporting and contact tracing that are designed to direct healthy individuals into quarantine and isolation,” the district posted on its website.

While Gov. Jared Polis said it is unambiguous that schools are required to report COVID cases, the district disagrees citing the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s guidance.

The district included wording by the CDPHE reading that schools are encouraged to report cases, but does not read that they are required.

According to the CDPHE’s website the guidance on reporting states:

Per 6 CCR 1009-1 and Public Health Order 20-33, clinical labs and/or health care providers are required to report all COVID-19 test results, both positive and negative, 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 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.

CDPHE website

Implementing quarantines is the direction of the local health department and not the responsibility of the school district itself, the post states. The district said the governor’s direction contradicts the county’s approach and it is “exercising local leadership.”

The district said it continues to cooperate with the El Paso County Health Department keeping communication open regarding cases and transmission, but ultimately leaves it the individuals in the district to take it upon themselves to seek medical attention for testing.

“By direct observation, we can confirm that for the overwhelming majority of parents, students, and staff in District 49, current transmission levels and exposure potential do not justify universal masking,” the post states.

The district said it informs staff and student families if they are exposed to someone positive with COVID-19, but trusts they will make the best decision for themselves to handle the situation and not require mask wearing, isolation or quarantine.

The Chief Education Officer’s post said, “Far from ignoring science or safety, we have determined that overreacting to the possibility of transmission has been bad for learning, bad for mental health, and ultimately far worse for our students than the low-level medical risk of a virus that rarely causes any significant issues for children.”

Several other school districts along the Front Range have followed guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the CDPHE to implement mask requirements.

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