There are no mask mandates and no quarantine rules in Colorado’s COVID guidance for the 2022-23 school year, but public health officials say they’re still tracking the disease and want school administrators to be open and honest with families about cases and clusters. 

New guidance released Wednesday largely treats COVID like other communicable diseases, continuing a policy the state established in February at the end of the first omicron wave. At the same time, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is continuing to make free rapid antigen tests widely available to schools and child care centers, both for weekly testing programs and for students to use at home. 

Colorado saw high levels of COVID-19 all summer, with a sustained plateau in hospitalizations that began to decline this month. Bailey Fosdick, a member of the state’s COVID modeling team at the Colorado School of Public Health, said the lack of mitigation measures like masking may contribute to some spread in classrooms, but the combination of vaccination and recent infection should put a brake on transmission. 

“Even with school starting, all of our models suggest cases and hospitalizations will continue to decline through at least the end of September,” Fosdick said. “And that’s due to the high levels of infections we saw in the spring and summer. We estimate that we still have quite a bit of immunity in the population, particularly immunity from severe disease.”

State Epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said the new guidance aims to minimize disruptions for students and families while remaining alert for signs of clusters or higher transmission that might indicate a need for stepped-up precautions. Colorado is in a very different position than it was two years ago, she said, and that warrants a new approach. 

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Erica Meltzer, Chalkbeat

Bureau Chief — Chalkbeat Colorado Email: emeltzer@chalkbeat.org