Virus Outbreak Colorado Schools

Students in masks queue up to enter the building for the first day of in-class learning since the start of the pandemic at Garden Place Elementary School Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in north Denver. All students, visitors and staff are required to wear face coverings while in Denver Public Schools regardless of vaccination status with the start of the school year.(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The number of K-12 school outbreaks in Colorado grew again over the past week, continuing a steady climb in student and staff infections since the beginning of the school year.

There have now been 2,572 students and 415 staff members infected as part of the 182 school outbreaks here, according to data published weekly by the state Department of Public Health and Environment. Those numbers are up from 2,240 and 331, respectively, a week ago, when there were 170 such clusters. 

Since Sept. 1, the number of staff infections detailed in the data has grown by ninefold; student cases have spiked more than sevenfold. 

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The data does not detail how many students or staff are symptomatic, nor does it provide detail into hospitalizations associated with the outbreaks. Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday that 26 Coloradans below the age of 18 are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and that pediatric hospital beds are not in danger of being overrun. Children are less susceptible to severe illness and death from COVID-19, but only those over the age of 11 are currently eligible to be vaccinated.

State data indicates that more than a quarter of new COVID-19 cases here are in people 19 years old and younger. Rachel Herlihy, the state's epidemiologist, told reporters Friday that the highest growth in cases is among Colorado's youngest residents.

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Glen Mays of the Colorado School of Public Health told the Gazette in an email that the state should watch school outbreaks closely in the coming weeks, as the temperature cools.

"As schools move back to 'indoor dining' in the cooler months, this may trigger increased transmission," he said. "Eating and drinking indoors among the unvaccinated is still a risky endeavor and masks can’t help much there."