First-graders are seen on their second day of school on Thursday, August 12, 2021, at Second Creek Elementary School in Commerce City. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news.

School settings in Douglas, Arapahoe and Adams counties saw 15 confirmed coronavirus outbreaks starting in August, according to the local public health agency that serves those counties.

“What we feared could happen is beginning to happen,” said John Douglas, executive director of Tri-County Health Department, during an Aug. 26 telephone town hall event.

In mid-August, Tri-County Health Department issued an order that requires masks for all children ages 2 through 11 — and all the individuals working or interacting with those children — in all indoor school and childcare settings in the three counties.

Tri-County’s board of health approved the mask order on Aug. 17, and it took effect Aug. 23. Some school districts had implemented mask requirements before the order was approved. All of the listed outbreaks started in August.

The Douglas County School District began requiring all students in preschool through sixth grade to wear masks when inside school buildings in a rule that took effect on Aug. 23. The rule also applies to staff who work with that age group.

Across the counties, officials have also seen 23 suspected outbreaks, said Becky O’Guin, spokesperson for Tri-County Health.

Of the total — confirmed and suspected — most are at K-12 settings, and one is from a childcare setting, O’Guin said.