In a joint effort, Grand County Public Health, West Grand School District, East Grand School District, and others have been working diligently over the last couple months to develop protocols and measures to allow for safe and productive in-person learning this fall. The fruits of their labor have finally come together in recently-released documents by Grand County Public Health.
On August 19, Grand County Public Health (GCPH) issued a Public Health Order (PHO) related to COVID-19 Protective Measures in Public and Private Schools in Grand County. They also published related “School Guidance Documents” that include: COVID-19 Expectations, a Morning Checklist, COVID-19 consent forms, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment modified flowcharts, and an open letter to parents.
The purpose of the PHO is to implement pre-K-12 School Specific Protective Measures that provide for the safe operation of primary and secondary education schools in Grand County while maintaining Best Practice Protective Measures, including safe and sustainable levels of social distancing. The Order has four primary directives:
- Face masks or coverings that cover both the nose and mouth and that occlude air flow are required
to be worn by all children in grades pre-K through 12 and anyone
else over the age of 2 who is in the confines of a Grand County pre-K-12 school setting, with some exceptions. Individuals on school buses to and from school functions must also wear face coverings.
- Suspected positive cases and outbreaks will be mitigated using Grand County Public Health’s COVID-19 School Flowcharts
and Protocols based on CDPHE’s case and outbreak guidance.
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) and Colorado Department of Education (CDE) August 2020 guidance for in-person learning at pre-K-12 schools should be followed.
- Generally applicable Best Practice Protective Measures are to be followed by all citizens, businesses, and visitors while in Grand County.
The order is effective immediately and expires on September 19,2020, unless extended, amended, or rescinded. The Order also notes, “If Protective Measures listed in this August 19, 2020 Public Health Order (or any future amendments thereof) are more restrictive than current state orders, the August 19, 2020 Public Health Order (or future amendments thereof) shall take precedence over state orders. If state orders are more restrictive, they shall take precedence.”
In creating this guidance, Grand County Public Health had to compromise on certain “Generally-applicable Best Protective Measures” to make the most out of a very difficult situation. GCPH still believes that social distancing of at least 6 feet between non-household members is the best scientific practice. Due to the difficulty of achieving such distance in school classrooms and settings, GCPH agreed that students should maintain as much physical distance as possible between one another and compensate for the lack of proper social distancing by mandating use of face coverings in school settings (with some exceptions). This extenuating compromise by GCPH is not recommended for other businesses or sectors and should not become the norm in the county.
In-person learning will naturally decrease the social distancing rating of our community as a whole. Outbreaks in our community and schools could lead to interruptions in our workforce and have economic consequences to our community as a whole. For that reason, the community as a whole needs to compensate with extra precautions to keep COVID-19 disease in our community controlled. Examples of compensation and extra precaution would include, but are not limited to Actions like avoiding social gatherings, keeping event attendee numbers low, and strict mask wearing are vital to the success and continuation of this public health order, to the economic health of the county, and to the continued in-person learning at pre-K-12 schools across the county.