PUEBLO COUNTY, (KRDO) -- According to data from Pueblo School District 70, the amount of positive COVID-19 cases in its schools has doubled in the last week. On January 7, D70 reported 157 positive cases for students and 33 for their staff.
Friday, D70 is reporting 400 positive cases for their students and 81 for their staff. Additionally, 13 of their 19 schools are considered in an outbreak status.
"We are starting to see absenteeism due to sickness," Pueblo Health Director, Randy Evetts, told KRDO last week.
D70 told KRDO this week that they have modified the contract tracing measures at their schools. They are now having to prioritize "high-risk exposures" at athletic events and other extracurricular activities.
"When a student is in a group setting or when they are in an athletic or after school activity where they are maybe experiencing or breathing harder, they are maybe not wearing their mask to the extent that we would like to see that, those kinds of things make those more high risk settings," Evetts said.
For D70, it's not just the high levels of student absences. They are reporting 81 staff are out with COVID-19 as well.
"It really does present some staffing shortages, especially right now with our health care professionals, our nurses are impacted the most this last week," Todd Seip, D70 Public Information Officer, said. "Our nurses can't keep up with the high number of positive cases being reported."
Pueblo County as a whole has experienced a sharp increase in case numbers as well. From December 26 to January 2, case numbers rose from 864 to 2,127 positive cases, according to data from PDPHE.
"What happens in our community also kind of mirrors what happens in our schools and so when we see positive cases go up in our community, we also see positive cases rise in our schools," Seip said. "We have seen almost an exponential growth of cases just in the last the last two weeks since we have been back from the holiday break."
In December, the District 70 Board wrote a letter to the Pueblo Board of Health asking for the removal of a mask mandate for their schools. The BOH decided against removing the mandate at their last meeting.
In a statement to KRDO, D70 Board President Anne Ochs said, "we have been in constant discussion about this and still believe in parent/student health choice," Ochs said.
The Board of Health is expected to discuss the mask mandate further at their next meeting on January 26th.