Douglas County schools report 13 COVID-19 outbreaks in past week

K-12 schools continue to be hotspots for COVID-19, with 13 Douglas County schools reporting outbreaks within the past week, according to data released Wednesday by the state health department.

Douglas County School District, which reported some of the largest school outbreaks in the past week, lifted its mask mandate in December just as the omicron variant was found to be spreading in the state.

The district’s 13 new outbreaks affect a total of 164 students and 12 staff members. The largest outbreaks occurred at Mountain Ridge Middle School and Cresthill Middle School, which reported 40 cases and 36 cases among students respectively, according to the state health department.

“Omicron is everywhere,” said Sid Rundle, the district’s special education services officer, during a school board meeting earlier in the week.

Overall, Colorado schools saw COVID-19 cases among students increase after school started in the fall as a significant portion of the K-12 population – children ages 5 to 11 years old – were not eligible for a vaccine until two months ago.

There are signs that the current wave of infections is slowing, with the state’s modeling team reporting that it expects cases to decline through February.

More than 300 K-12 schools have active outbreaks, which is defined as five or more cases in a class or grade level, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Douglas County School District announced last week that it would stop notifying families if there was an outbreak in a school, citing confusion it could cause as outbreaks occur in grade levels or classrooms. Now, the district is only notifying parents if their child is considered a close contact to someone with COVID-19.

The district has also stopped telling parents when their child might have been exposed in class except in cases of an outbreak — something other districts, such as Boulder Valley School District, have also done following the rapid spread of the omicron variant.

“We got into a situation because of the sheer amount of COVID in the community, schools were just sending those letters out over and over again,” said Stephanie Faren, director of health services for Boulder Valley School District.

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