Colorado schools, colleges back to COVID-19 outbreak levels from before November surge – The Denver Post

Outbreaks at schools and universities are back at levels last seen before COVID-19 surged throughout Colorado in November, but it’s not clear what will happen as more students return to their classrooms.

As of Wednesday, 78 schools serving K-12 students and eight university settings reported current coronavirus outbreaks, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Most of those are ongoing and predate students’ return to school this month.

The state defines an outbreak as two or more cases linked to a place or event, so students testing positive at the start of a semester don’t count as a school-based outbreak — though they could be tied to a different outbreak if they attended the same party, for example.

Outbreaks in Colorado’s K-12 schools generally have tracked with the overall number of cases in the state. Only three schools reported outbreaks in August, but the number accelerated throughout the fall, with 203 buildings reporting clusters of COVID-19 cases in November.

The number of new outbreaks fell off in December as overall spread in the community fell and many districts moved classes online. So far, the state has reported 12 new outbreaks in the first three weeks of January.

On Wednesday, new COVID-19 cases were at roughly the level seen in late October. The state health department didn’t respond to questions about how that level of spread could affect the odds of future outbreaks as students go back to class.

Many of the large metro-area school districts began phasing students back into classrooms this month.

Colleges also reported an increasing number of outbreaks as the fall progressed, though the trajectory wasn’t as sharp. There are far fewer colleges and universities than K-12 schools, however, and they may be able to move to remote classes more easily.

Most of the largest university clusters from the fall are still considered ongoing, including campus-wide outbreaks at the University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado State University, University of Denver, CSU Pueblo, Regis University and Colorado Christian University. An outbreaks isn’t considered over until four weeks have passed with no new cases linked to the location.

Two new university outbreaks have been reported in January: one involving 10 people affiliated with the CU Boulder football team and the other affecting three residents of a dormitory at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.

No deaths have been linked to any COVID-19 outbreaks in Colorado educational settings, though outbreaks in K-12 schools resulted in 2,335 cases and college outbreaks caused 5,920.

Children and young adults are at a significantly lower risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 than are older adults. It’s impossible to know what the effect of students infecting members of the general community may have been, however.

Overall outbreaks have been falling since mid-December, as the worst of the fall wave receded. The state health department reported 982 active outbreaks on Wednesday, which is 60 fewer than a week earlier.

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