6 Mesa County Schools Have Closed, More Scrubbed Clean As Mystery Illness Spreads

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The arid Book Cliffs dominate the view from Palisade and Grand Junction. The highest point on the iconic geologic formation is Mt. Garfield. This photo was made in October looking across freshly cut hayfields from G Road.

Published 11/19 5:51 p.m. | Updated 11/20 1:20 p.m.

More schools are closed in Mesa County because of an unknown infectious illness spreading among students and staff. That brings the total number of temporarily shuttered schools to six since the sickness, whose main symptom is vomiting, appeared last week.

Rocky Mountain Elementary School in Clifton will be closed Wednesday. Juniper Ridge Community School in Grand Junction will be closed the rest of the week, with students returning Dec. 2, after the Thanksgiving break. Grand Mesa Middle School also closed on Wednesday.

Taylor Elementary in Palisade became the sixth school to close. It will be shuttered through Thanksgiving break and reopen Dec. 2.

Palisade High and Mount Garfield Middle schools, which are only 2 miles apart, were closed for cleaning last week and on Monday, respectively.

Palisade High School has since reopened. Mount Garfield Middle was scheduled to reopen Wednesday, but closed again.

Mesa County health officials think norovirus is a possible cause of the outbreaks. The main symptom is vomiting that lasts between 12 and 24 hours, with a few reports of diarrhea, as well.

Officials warned the public that when it comes to norovirus, not all cleaning liquids and hand sanitizers can kill the germs. People sick with the virus can continue to spread the illness 24 hours after symptoms have passed. Officials urged parents to keep their children at home if they show any signs of illness.

On Tuesday evening, several schools received additional cleaning but did not close down. Those included: Bookcliff Middle School, Fruita Middle School, Clifton Elementary, Rim Rock Elementary, and Taylor Elementary.

This type of intensive cleaning is triggered when close to 10 percent of kids are sick.