Illness & Outbreaks
How Schools will Handle Illness and Outbreaks
On August 12, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment released new guidance for schools that helps determine how parents, staff members and school systems should handle individual symptoms and potential outbreaks of COVID-19. This guidance includes when students and staff should stay home and for how long, when students or staff should be sent home and who should isolate and quarantine based on potential exposure.
Can I go to school/work today?
There are four main reasons to keep children and adults at home:
- Someone who the child or staff lives with (or has had close contact with) has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or has symptoms of COVID-19.
- The child or staff member does not feel well enough to take part in usual activities. For example, a child is overly tired, fussy or will not stop crying.
- A child needs more care than the teachers and staff can give while still caring for other children.
- The symptom or illness is on this document, and staying home is required.
The new guidance includes a questionnaire for parents and staff members to determine if students are well enough to go to school and if staff members are well enough to report to work. As a reminder, we are in the “Safer at Home” phase, which is sustained community transmission. The guidance says if any of the below symptoms are present, the staff member or student should not report to work/school and should inform the school of the symptoms. Then they should seek COVID-19 testing and next steps for medical care.
- Feeling feverish, having chills, or temperature of 100.4F or higher
- New or unexplained persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of taste or smell
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Nausea or vomiting
- Runny nose or congestion
What if I feel unwell after arriving at school?
This decision tree will help school staff determine who needs to be sent home if they do not pass a symptom screen upon arrival or if they begin to feel/appear unwell during the school day. The tool looks for major and minor symptoms of COVID-19. If the person has one or more of the symptoms that are not explained by a chronic condition, the student/staff member will be sent home.
If I’m ill, how long do I need to stay home?
When a student or staff member is out of school because of symptoms, this tool helps determine when they are able to return to school. This tool is NOT for those who have had a positive COVID-19 test or known exposure, as those individuals should follow public health quarantine or isolation instructions.
Generally, if symptoms resolve within 24 hours, the student or staff member may return to school/work when deemed safe based on current school illness policies. If not, a COVID-19 test should be administered. Students and staff should isolate until results are available. If positive, continue isolation for 10 days following symptom onset and 24 hours fever free. If negative, only return to school according to school illness policies if there is an alternate diagnosis that explains all symptoms.
Do classmates/cohort members or close contacts of the sick person also need to stay home?
If the student or staff sent home was in class within 48 hours prior to their test (or symptom onset), then schools will follow this chart. The entire class/cohort will be dismissed and will quarantine if the student or staff member has a positive COVID-19 test OR has new symptoms and has had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 OR if the student or staff member sent home had a fever and another major system.
If none of these are true, schools will use further evaluation to determine if the cohort should continue in-person learning. If after three days the student or staff member does not get better, then the cohort would quarantine until specific criteria are met.