Metro Public Health Coalition Urges Continued Universal Masking in School Settings
The Metro Denver Partnership for Health (MDPH), which represents public health agencies serving the region, is encouraging school districts to continue requiring masks to be worn by all students ages 3 and older and staff in their facilities for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.
“While we are all eager to return to a sense of normalcy, now is not the time go let our guard down, especially for the youngest members of our communities who cannot yet be vaccinated,” said Lexi Nolen, PhD, MPH, Acting Executive Director of Boulder County Public Health, and a participating member of MDPH.
Gov. Jared Polis on Friday announced that the state would drop masking requirements in certain settings following newly released guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which notes that it is safe for people who are fully vaccinated to go without face coverings. The updated state Executive Order outlines that fully vaccinated persons in schools do not need to wear a mask unless they are in a group or classroom with staff who do not have documentation of vaccination.
Additionally, metro Denver counties have moved to “Level Clear,” which significantly eases capacity limits and other restrictions in public spaces. Overall case rates in the metro area have decreased over the past few weeks, however, COVID-19 transmission remain high and cases among children and youth have increased. Although about 64% of metro Denver residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, school populations – particularly elementary schools – have large numbers of students who are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine or who have not been vaccinated.
MDPH urges continued universal masking despite vaccination status as it ensures that students who cannot or are not yet vaccinated can safely finish the school year. This approach is consistent with updated guidance for schools released by the CDC over the weekend. Noting that its new mask guidance has raised questions for schools about how to proceed in the current school year, CDC recommends that universal use of masks for all persons be continued for at least the remainder of the academic year.
“We know that masking significantly reduces the risk of COVID transmission among unvaccinated people or for those who are vaccinated and have medical conditions that may impair immunity,” said John M. Douglas, Jr., MD, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department, and Co-chair of MDPH. “This is a small step that our communities can take to ensure that our students are protected and safe.”
MDPH emphasizes that in-person learning from early childhood care centers through high school is feasible and safe with routine prevention measures including appropriate distancing, universal masking, ventilation, and handwashing. For additional information and considerations on the importance of universal masking, please see MDPH’s “COVID-19 Strategies for Schools.”
MDPH is led by six public health agencies serving the seven-county Denver metro area: Boulder County Public Health, Broomfield Department of Public Health, Denver Department of Public Health & Environment, Denver Public Health, Jefferson County Public Health, and Tri-County Health Department, serving Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties. MDPH’s work impacts over 3 million Coloradans — 60% of the state’s population — who live in this region. MDPH is supported and staffed by the Colorado Health Institute (CHI). More information can be found on CHI’s website at https://colo.health/MDPH.
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