Two weeks after thousands of kids were sickened by a fast-moving viral illness, schools so far across Mesa County are reopening on schedule.
District 51’s high schools resumed classes Monday, while elementary and middle schools are set to follow on Tuesday after a pre-scheduled planning day.
All 46 schools shut down two days early for the Thanksgiving holiday after more than 4,000 students were absent, though the number of kids who were actually sick is still being investigated.
Custodians thoroughly cleaned all 46 campuses, plus administrative buildings, during the holiday break, spokesperson Emily Shockley said, adding that school officials are waiting to see if that truly quelled the outbreak.
“We'll really know if it was enough if people stay home if they're sick and if we don't see a resurgence,” she said.
Shockley stressed that with a gastrointestinal illness like the one that was sweeping through Mesa County, it’s important to stay away from work, school or public spaces until 24 hours after symptoms have disappeared.
“I think what hopefully the whole community has learned is that when people are sick, they need to stay home,” she said.
Though the brunt of the illness appears to be over, this experience will likely affect how widespread sickness is dealt with in the future in the county. In the height of the outbreak, District 51 purchased a new machine to quickly disperse a bleach solution across classrooms. At the same time, Mesa County Public Health was releasing daily updates and recommendations for staying healthy.
As of Dec. 2, the health department still has an active phone number where people call in to report public vomiting.
The source of the outbreak could forever be a mystery, and even the name of the sickness remains shrouded. A lab test a week ago came back negative for the suspected culprit, norovirus, but scientists said that result didn’t rule it out.
But whatever sickened Mesa County, making it a nationwide news story for a few, queasy days, health officials say the lesson here is clear: Wash your hands.