Some school districts in Colorado are updating their masking recommendations following the release of new state and federal guidance.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) last week issued guidance recommending school staff and students in high-risk areas wear face masks even if vaccinated, but it doesn’t amount to a mandate for districts. The department's recommendations reflect that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) new guidance announced last week.
"The state recommends local public health agencies and school districts consider either mask requirements for all unvaccinated individuals or all individuals in schools, particularly in higher-risk environments," the CDPHE guidance says.
According to the state, school districts that see transmission rates above 35 cases per 100,000 residents should adopt additional safety measures such as limiting large gatherings and practicing social distancing.
“We all want children to be back at school and as safe as possible. Masks will help us slow the spread of the Delta variant and avoid school closures,” Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s state epidemiologist, said in a statement. “Masks are an added layer of protection, as we hope that even more children ages 12 and up will get vaccinated.”
Gov. Jared Polis said Monday a statewide indoor mask mandate "would be an extraordinary step," adding that "we don't want mask-wearing to be an excuse not to get vaccinated."
Some school districts have already released updated COVID-19 rules for the upcoming school year following the CDC and CDPHE guidance.
Denver Public Schools said Tuesday it is requiring masks "for all students, visitors, and staff while in all DPS schools and buildings, regardless of vaccination status." Masks won't be required while outside, the district said.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced on Monday that he will require all school personnel in Denver to be fully vaccinated by September 30. Those who remain unvaccinated after the deadline could lose their jobs, the mayor said.
In Jefferson County, all students between the ages of three and 11 are recommended to wear masks while indoors.
"For students age 12 and above (generally 7th through 12th grade), masks indoors are strongly recommended for unvaccinated students, and recommended for vaccinated students in alignment with the guidance from [Jefferson County Public Health]," the district said.
In Arapahoe County, the Cherry Creek School District announced it will follow the guidance of the Tri-County Health Department, which says "that all persons wear masks in school settings regardless of vaccination status and, as long as we have rising rates of community transmission."
Staff in Aurora’s public schools will be required to wear masks if they are unvaccinated, and masks are "strongly recommended" for unvaccinated students.
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Original Author: Robert Davis, The Center Square contributor
Original Location: Colorado school districts update mask guidance ahead of school year