By Lisa Young
Details on the number of staff or students affected by COVID-19 at Lincoln Elementary school in Delta have not been officially released. Upon learning of a possible COVID-19 outbreak, the Delta County Independent reached out to both the school district and the health department for comment.
“With regards to the schools. We are not responsible for releasing information about the schools unless an outbreak occurs, that has not happened,” stated Darnell Place-Wise, Delta County Public Information Officer, speaking on behalf of health department experts.
The Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) only reports COVID-19 outbreaks on a weekly basis after testing has been confirmed. In order to meet the state’s criteria for an outbreak at least two cases have to be traced from the same location within two weeks. The next statewide outbreak report should be available Sept. 9.
Delta County School District Superintendent Caryn Gibson did confirm in an email that district students have tested positive for COVID. She said the district is, “following the CDPHE guidelines had to quarantine the exposed cohorts for a total of 14 days.” She did not say how many students or staff were quarantined at this time.
A “cohort” is defined as a group of people banded together or treated as a group. The term is being used to describe school groupings or classes that stay together during the school day.
Gibson shared the following message with the community at large:
“Delta County School District wants to remind our community that we work with the Delta County Health Department and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to follow published guidelines for when and who to quarantine in response to COVID-19 cases and symptoms.
“If cases develop in any school, we will be in direct communication with families and staff who are in close contact with someone with COVID-19. Close contact is considered as a person who was within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 (even if they did not have symptoms) for at least 15 minutes total; provided care for someone who is sick with COVID-19; had direct physical contact with or shared eating/drinking utensils with or was exposed to respiratory droplets from someone who is sick with COVID-19 (through sneezing, coughing, shouting, etc.) and was in the same class/cohort as a person with COVID-19.
“For clarification, isolation is defined as a period of 10 days when an individual has a positive case of COVID-19. Quarantine is a safety measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and is for a period of 14 days from when an individual has been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. Quarantine means staying home from work, school, and/or activities after a person was in close contact with someone with (the virus),” Gibson added.
The superintendent said the district is taking the necessary measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and ensure student and staff safety.
“We are taking a precautionary stance to address cases as they arise,” said Gibson thanking the community for its continued support “as we navigate these unique times.”
During a recent briefing with Delta County Commissioners, Greg Rajnowski from the health department said the positive cases in the school district have “tested the statewide tools.”
He told commissioners that to date, no Delta County schools have been closed due to covid because the health department and school district have been able to quarantine impacted individuals and those who might be at risk.
“We’ve done a great job with the school district in collaborating to get on things track quickly and really utilize the guidelines well. Hopefully the feedback gets back to the state in the right manner.”
Delta County Commissioner Don Suppes frustrated with the ongoing interruptions caused by the pandemic lashed out at the state’s response.
“I really hope that we’re pushing back on the state with this, not technically a closure of the school, but pretty dang close because we affected four hundred families with this. These were four hundred families that were informed on a Sunday night that their kids can’t come back to school for the next 10 days,” he said, “I know the state was pushing for a full closure of the school.”
Rajnowski told Suppes that he was on numerous calls with experts on the issue, adding that the state was not looking to close the schools.
“They were definitely not in favor of closing the schools. I think the problem became that when you have individuals that have such large cohorts where they do have a lot of contacts. It becomes more and more difficult to identify who would be in those cohorts. That (decision) was left up to the schools and I think they made the appropriate choice. I definitely back them on their choice to do what they did.”
“I think avoiding moving it (covid) into families and then having those families potentially spreading it to other people over the Labor Day weekend ... I definitely think they made the right move, so I don’t want to second guess their decision,” Rajnowski added.
Community spread in Delta County is steadily creeping up bringing the total cases to 166 with 136 confirmed and 30 pending in the first week of September. The two largest monthly increases in new cases were April with 43 and August with 65. The three lowest months with new cases were May (25), June (14) and July (21).