An Open Letter to the Grand County Community

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Grand County’s citizens, businesses, and visitors have all made significant sacrifices since the beginning of this pandemic to minimize disease spread and maintain a relatively low incidence of COVID-19 in our community. Thanks to those efforts, we have only seen 62 cases of COVID-19 among residents as of August 27, 2020. We hope these statistics will continue to show decreasing trends in new cases among residents and visitors to our county; however, the reopening of schools to in-person learning comes with increased risk of COVID-19 transmission. For that reason, Grand County Public Health has been working with administrators from West and East Grand
School Districts all summer to develop safe and scientifically-driven protective measures that would allow our schools to remain open for as long as possible.

Naturally, when schools reopen to in-person learning, social distancing decreases. Social distancing is proven to help reduce COVID-19
transmission, but when that is not possible (due to the innate nature of classrooms and indoor school environments), protective measures must be taken to counterbalance the lack of social and physical distancing, Face masks and coverings are another proven means of reducing the spread of COVID-19 and thus become the next best measure for offsetting the decrease in social distancing within our schools.

In the state of Colorado, the use of face coverings (even by younger children) is supported by the following:

  • The Governor’s Executive Order mandating the use of face coverings in Indoor Public Spaces for individuals over the age of
  • 10-years old.
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) guidance for Childcare Centers requiring that face coverings
    or masks be provided for children age three or older, no face coverings or masks for children age 0 to 35-months.
  • CDPHE’s guidance for Children’s Camps requiring masks or face coverings whenever possible.
  • Colorado Department of Education (CDE) & CDPHE reopening guidelines that support having decisions on masking in schools to
  • be based on local public health guidance.
  • The allowance for local Public Health Orders to be more restrictive (but not less restrictive) than state Public Health and Executive Orders.
  • Furthermore, on a national level, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Center of Disease Control (CDC) urge use of face masks for anyone 2-years of age and older.

    In an article published on August 13th by the AAP, the AAP affirms:
  • “Children ages 2-years and older can and should wear cloth face coverings when not able to physically distance, including while in schools, child care and other group settings.”
  • “During the COVID-19 pandemic, plans for the safe return of children to school, child care, and other group settings must include the universal use of cloth face coverings by children 2-years of age and older and the adults with whom they interact.”

    The CDC’s August 11th school guidance, notes:
  • “COVID-19 can be spread to others even if you do not feel sick. Cloth face coverings are an example of source control.
  • Cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected. Appropriate and consistent use of cloth face coverings is most important when students, teachers, and staff are indoors and when social distancing of at least 6-feet is difficult to implement or maintain.”
  • “While cloth face coverings are strongly encouraged to reduce the spread of COVID-19, CDC recognizes there are specific instances when wearing a cloth face covering may not be feasible. In these instances, parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers, and school administrators should consider adaptations and alternatives whenever possible. They may need to consult with healthcare providers for advice about wearing cloth face coverings.”

In summary, we acknowledge that the requirement for face masks to be worn in schools, with some exceptions, is contentious and
unnerving for some. This action is meant to keep our community safe and open. The state-mandated Stay-At-Home Order, enacted last spring, was devastating to many of our local families and businesses. To refrain from that happening again, protective measures must be taken to keep our citizens working and our economy moving forward. Sadly, COVID-19 is here, and although we are all tired of it, we must remain steadfast in keeping our community healthy.

Sincerely,
Grand County Public Health

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