As Jefferson County students return to in-person learning, and on the heels of the release of back-to-school guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) has 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. The purpose of the Order is to protect health and preserve in-person learning in the county.
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. 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. The goal shared by Jeffco parents, school leaders and public health leaders is to protect in-person learning.
In Jefferson County from August 16-22, 2021, there were 878 new cases (150.8 per 100,000 residents) of COVID-19, compared to 07/16 - 07/22: 283 (48.5 per 100,000 persons). Cases have increased rapidly over the past month for both children and adults. Children under 12 are also vulnerable as they are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
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. 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. Research conducted by Children’s Hospital Colorado, has determined there is no evidence that wearing a mask is bad for kids and they agree the most important thing for kids’ mental wellness is to keep them in school in-person. 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.
Dr. Dawn Comstock
Jefferson County Public Health