Some Colorado Coronavirus Outbreaks Got To Schools Before The Students Did

Virus Outbreak Colorado
David Zalubowski/AP Photo
A young woman looks over a swab that she is to use to carry out a self-administered nasal test during a demonstration at the City and County of Denver’s drive-up, COVID-19 test site in the parking lot of a downtown sports venue in an effort to stop the spread of the new coronavirus Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Denver.

Cases of COVID-19 are already emerging in schools and universities in Colorado — even before all the students return for in-person learning.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported outbreaks at two schools and a childcare center this week. Neither of the schools had yet opened their doors to students.

But not all education-related infection clusters are created equal. Some schools, colleges and universities with known multiple infections of COVID-19, including the University of Colorado in Boulder and Colorado State in Fort Collins, are not considered outbreaks and aren’t included in the weekly report.

CDPHE has developed three definitions for different kinds of outbreaks at schools:

  • A cohort or classroom outbreak occurs among members of the same learning group. This can be a classroom or a group of students and teachers kept together on learning days and isolated from other groups. This occurs when there are two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a 14-day period among students, teachers or staff within the same cohort.
  • A school-wide outbreak occurs when three or more cohorts have outbreaks. In schools that do not have cohorts, a school-wide outbreak occurs when there are two confirmed COVID-19 cases within the school in a 14-day period. An outbreak is also considered school-wide if 5 percent or more of the school population are positive for COVID-19.
  • A staff outbreak occurs when two or more teachers or staff that are close contacts test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period.

Both Battle Mountain High School in Eagle County and Compass Montessori in Jefferson County reported two cases each among staff members. In-person learning had not started in either school district at the time of the outbreaks and students were not exposed.

According to Dan Dougherty, a spokesperson for Eagle County Schools, the first staff member to develop symptoms followed the district’s COVID-19 response plan exactly. They did not show up to work sick, were immediately tested and cooperated with contact tracing efforts to identify other staff that may have been exposed. Three staff members are now in quarantine.

“All in all, it went according to plan: keep the ill out of school (stay home if sick), rapidly remove the symptomatic from public circulation (self-isolate/quarantine), get tested, contact trace, remove others who had close contact (closer than six-feet apart for more than 15 minutes), and thus contain the spread,” Dougherty wrote in an email.

Several other schools also reported cases of COVID-19 or instituted quarantine protocols this week, but did not meet the standards to be listed as an outbreak.

Fort Lupton High School in Weld County shut down Thursday until at least Sept. 7 after one student in each of the school’s two cohorts tested positive for COVID-19. Fort Lupton High School has 670 students, about 150 of whom are enrolled in online learning only for the fall.

Colleges across Colorado have also detected several cases through pre-semester testing efforts. Both the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University reported 10 new cases this week. According to CDPHE, those cases do not qualify as outbreaks.

But both colleges reported multiple infections in their athletic programs over the summer that did qualify as outbreaks. An outbreak also occurred at an off-campus fraternity house at CSU in July.

CDPHE reported 25 new outbreaks this week, including one at the Colorado Springs Police Department. New outbreaks also occurred in three stores, two offices, two construction sites, two restaurants, two elder care facilities, a repair shop, the Focus on the Family Christian ministry, a residential healthcare facility, a prison, a warehouse, a farm, a social gathering and a fair.

COVID-19 outbreaks reported this week

Facility NameDate Outbreak ConfirmedType of FacilityCountyCOVID-19 Cases
Ainsworth Trailer Repair08/25/20Repair shopDenver4 staff positive 
Battle Mountain High School08/19/20SchoolEagle2 staff positive
Big Johnson Construction Site08/22/20Construction SiteSummit3 staff positive
City Electric Supply08/25/20StoreAdams3 staff positive
Colorado Springs Police Department08/25/20Law EnforcementEl Paso3 staff positive, 5 staff probable
Compass Montessori08/25/20SchoolJefferson2 staff positive
Cracker Barrel08/25/20RestaurantAdams4 staff positive
Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health08/17/20HealthcareJefferson4 residents positive, 6 staff positive, 22 staff probable
Encompass Technologies08/21/20OfficeLarimer2 staff positive
Focus on the Family08/21/20Christian Ministry OrganizationEl Paso3 staff positive, 1 staff probable
Fremont Correctional Facility08/19/20PrisonFremont6 residents positive, 3 staff positive
iLending DIRECT08/19/20OfficeArapahoe13 staff positive, 9 staff probable
Jump Start Early Learning Academy08/24/20Child Care CenterAdams2 staff positive, 4 attendees probable
Life Care Center of Colorado Springs08/25/20Elder CareEl Paso2 residents positive, 1 staff positive
Metalwest08/25/20WarehouseAdams2 staff positive
Midwest Farms: Farm 508/21/20FarmKit Carson2 staff positive
Olive Garden #125008/25/20RestaurantArapahoe5 staff positive, 2 staff probable
The Residence at Village Green, LLC08/24/20Elder CareEl Paso3 residents positive, 4 residents probable, 2 staff positive
Sky Ranch Horn Creek08/21/20Family campCuster4 staff positive, 12 attendees positive
Social Gathering - Ouray08/21/20GatheringOuray5 attendees positive, 2 attendees probable
The Home Depot08/19/20StoreEagle4 staff positive
The Home Depot08/24/20StoreLarimer2 staff positive
The Landings08/20/20Construction SitePueblo10 staff positive
Vision en Movimiento08/20/20Leadership WorkshopDenver 3 staff positive, 11 attendees positive, 2 attendees probable
West of Surrender 08/25/20RestaurantDenver5 staff positive