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Here’s how Colorado schools will handle COVID-19 outbreaks

DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released new guidance Thursday on how schools should respond to COVID-19 outbreaks after reopening.

CDPHE is encouraging schools to use cohorts in which students maintain the same group and schedule at all times during the school day, thus limiting how many people are in contact with each other.

Should two or more people at a school (including staff, students and family members) test positive or have a high likelihood of testing positive, the state would consider it an outbreak. CDPHE released the following guidelines during an outbreak.

Two or more people from separate households with confirmed COVID-19 in a single classroom or cohort

  • All students and staff with COVID-19 stay home until released from isolation (usually 10 days after symptom onset, 24+ hours fever-free, and improving symptoms).
  • Class/cohort must quarantine for 14 days.
  • Public health recommends testing close contacts (about 7 days after exposure or earlier if contact develops symptoms).
  • If outbreak and exposures are limited to one classroom or cohort, school closure should not be necessary.

Two or more outbreak classrooms/cohorts

  • All students and staff with COVID-19 stay home until released from isolation
  • All classrooms/cohorts, including teachers/staff, must quarantine for 14 days. Public health recommends testing of close contacts.
  • Consider school closure, especially if evidence of transmission between classrooms/cohorts within the school (as opposed to two distinct classroom outbreaks both starting with known household exposures).

In schools not cohorting, two or more people, from separate households, with confirmed COVID-19with onset within 14 days in the same school

  • All students and staff with COVID-19 stay home until released from isolation
  • Work with public health to identify contacts. All contacts must quarantine for 14 days.
  • Public health recommends testing of close contacts.
  • Consider school-wide testing event.
  • Consider school closure if teacher/ staff staying home interferes with the ability of the school to operate

If 5% or more of students and staff have confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a 14-day period, the state health department recommends a two-week school closure.

To read the full CDPHE guidelines, click here.

Gov. Jared Polis held a media briefing earlier Thursday and did not mention that the release of guidelines was imminent, but said that he believes it's "reasonably safe" for students and staff to resume classroom learning.

"Unlike parts of Texas and much of Florida, it's reasonably safe to open schools -- just as it is to go to the grocery store or to work," he said. "That reflects a lot of sacrifices Coloradans have made in keeping the transmission rate of the virus low."

When asked if he would change any of his prior pandemic-related decisions in order to create a better environment for returning to school, and if people opposed to starting the semester in the classroom are overreacting, Polis emphatically replied, "No."

The governor said he has a personal interest in the situation.

"In a few week, my kids will be going back to school, too," he said.

Parents and staff now have time to study the new guidelines before returning to school, or deciding whether they should.

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Zachary Aedo

Zach is a reporter for KRDO and Telemundo Surco. Learn more about Zach here.



  1. No school will apply the Class/cohort concept because they can’t. Children intermingle on school property prior to the start and after school. They will not report to schools as cohorts. They will not travel on Buses as cohorts. Students will intermingle in after school activities. Clubs and sports are not held by cohorts. Students will intermingle during lunch. There is not enough time to feed by cohorts. Students will intermingle in the hallways during passing periods. There is not enough time to move them one at a time. I highly doubt that students will be staying in only one classroom for the entire day. There will not be enough time between those move to disinfect those rooms. At the end of the day contact tracing by cohort is not possible because there will be interactions with all students in one form or another.

    1. That is not how they have set it up. You have to stick with only your class. You eat as a group and recess as a group. No intermingling during school. Social distancing will be required. Most sports and clubs are on hold and will not happen.

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