One cohort with 16 students at Durango High School began a 14-day quarantine Tuesday after exposure to a person exhibiting symptoms of the virus and who had close contact to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger said the quarantine will continue for 14 days, through Nov. 3, because the person was symptomatic, which raises the chances of problems stemming from a false negative test.
Four teachers in contact with the person also are on 14-day quarantine and have begun teaching their classes remotely, Snowberger said.
Julie Popp, 9-R spokeswoman, said she was unsure if the person at DHS had been tested as of Tuesday morning. However, she said, 9-R has access to 24-hour-a-day testing, seven days a week. She said results are expected between 24 to 36 hours after a test.
The district is working with Cedar Diagnostics, a Durango laboratory, to provide ready access to COVID-19 tests.
San Juan Basin Public Health alerted the district of the situation Monday evening, Popp said.
DHS remains open for in-person and blended learning for unaffected cohorts.
The grade of the cohort on quarantine is not being released to protect the privacy of the person, Popp said.
Claire Ninde, SJBPH director of communications, said SJBPH has been working with La Plata County and Archuleta County school districts and schools since the beginning of the pandemic.
The partnership between school districts and SJBPH includes reviewing school districts’ plans to reopen and their communication plans to contact families, school staff members and the public in the event of an exposure or potential exposure.
SJBPH conducts contact tracing for every positive case identified in K-12 schools in La Plata and Archuleta counties, with schools assisting in contact tracing efforts by providing student and staff rosters.
Additionally, some schools and school districts, including Durango 9-R, help by issuing letters and surveys to identify additional symptomatic staff members and students and by referring students to available COVID-19 testing opportunities, Ninde said.
“Schools and families have done difficult, important work to make the academic year safe through cohorting, requiring face coverings, holding classes outdoors and keeping students at home when sick. SJBPH appreciates these efforts and believes that they are responsible for our record of zero confirmed classroom outbreaks in Archuleta and La Plata counties,” Ninde wrote in an email to The Durango Herald.
She also urged everyone in La Plata and Archuleta counties to practice public health precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – actions that are especially important during the Halloween season.
Ninde also said because of a recent rise in cases, in part stemming from social gatherings, SJBPH is urging all community members to stay home as much as possible as well as to continue to maintain social-distance space, wear face masks and practice good hygiene and frequent hand washings.
Snowberger said the district received reports about several large student gatherings over the weekend, and he urged students to avoid large gatherings and to cooperate with public health authorities in all contact tracing efforts.
“We’re fortunate that while we’ve had a spike, our spike is nowhere near what you see in the Front Range,” he said. “But I’m fearful we’re going to see a similar spike because of behavior that’s starting to occur. Kids are starting to gather inside because it’s colder at night. They’re gathering in larger groups and sometimes without masks.”
Ninde said SJBPH also requests parents of high school-aged students stress the importance of avoiding high-risk activities such as large gatherings and parties.
“Young people have been shown to acquire the virus at social events and later transmit it to more vulnerable older adults in their families,” Ninde said. “As social events move indoors this fall and winter, good social habits will be critical to containing spread.”