Updated: 80 students, 2 staff enter quarantine after duo of COVID-19 cases found at Steamboat High School
Updated at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday to indicate a second, unrelated positive COVID-19 case and quarantine group at the high school.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Nearly 80 students and two staff members are now in quarantine after two unrelated positive COVID-19 cases at Steamboat Springs High School, according to the school district.
Two different groups of high school students — one of 55 students and another of 24 students — will need to quarantine until Jan. 21.
An email sent to parents Wednesday evening identified these students as being a close contact to two positive cases at the school, which Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks said were unrelated.
These are the fourth and fifth groups to be quarantined in the district since students returned to school last week. Three other groups, two at Soda Creek Elementary School and one at Strawberry Park Elementary School, were quarantined last week as well.
Within the district, there are now 114 students and 10 staff members in quarantine.
Rising local cases, which nearly doubled last week, was a major factor in the school board’s decision Monday to delay a plan to bring back younger students starting next week. The board will revisit the plan at its next meeting.
District officials purposefully delayed when their phased implementation plan would start by two weeks so they could assess the impact of cases from the holidays. Ultimately the board decided, against state guidance, to shelve the plan for now.
The focus of the district has shifted to keeping students in the hybrid model that has been used for most of the school year. Limiting staff quarantines is key as the district has limited substitutes. Meeks said being able to limit staff quarantines at the high school to two people was crucial.
“The real issue for us is how many staff are affected and do I have enough subs,” Meeks said Wednesday. “In the cases where we’ve had to go from hybrid to remote, it was because basically we just had too many staff out.”
The high school fully moved to remote learning in November when 14 staff had to quarantine following a local Halloween party health officials deemed a superspreader event.
Meeks said some substitute teachers have opted not to work until the pandemic is over or until they are able to get the vaccine, shortening the list of potential fill-ins.
Parents who have not been contacted by the district did not have children in close contact with any positive cases of COVID-19 at the elementary schools.
The district is asking parents to continue to regularly monitor their children for COVID-19 symptoms and not send them to school if they’re awaiting COVID-19 test results.
While teachers have been moved into Phase 1B of vaccine distribution, they are still below people 70 or older. On Monday, Routt County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Harrington estimated teachers may start receiving the vaccine around the end of February. This would likely mean teachers would have the full protection of the vaccine by mid-April, Harrington said.
Even with vaccinated teachers, Meeks said COVID-19 will continue to be a concern.
“Even if we are able to start getting people vaccinated, we’re still going to be dealing with this,” Meeks said. “There is going to be the occasional case and we’re going to have to quarantine, so this is going to be with us the rest of this semester.”
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More COVID-19 booster shots are getting approved, health officials are saying people can mix or match the brand of these shots, and vaccines for children between 5 and 11 are closer than ever.