Jeffco’s Comstock talks masks with educators

County’s top health official calls Delta variant a game-changer

Bob Wooley
bwooley@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/16/21

Jefferson County Public Health’s Executive Director Dawn Comstock, spoke with Jeffco school leaders and principals in an Aug. 10 Zoom meeting about COVID-19 guidance for schools. During the virtual …

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Jeffco’s Comstock talks masks with educators

County’s top health official calls Delta variant a game-changer

Posted

Jefferson County Public Health’s Executive Director Dawn Comstock, spoke with Jeffco school leaders and principals in an Aug. 10 Zoom meeting about COVID-19 guidance for schools.

During the virtual forum, Comstock showed slides containing current COVID-19 infection, vaccination and hospitalization rates in the county. She also answered questions from participants and explained JCPH’s position on masks in schools, for students and educators. 

Referring to a slide outlining rising numbers and severity of the Delta variant cases in children, Comstock said it shows COVID-19 infections do occur among the youngest populations, and they can transmit COVID to others. 

“You can see that unfortunately with the rise of the Delta variant the incidence rate of younger individuals in our society is very quickly approaching that of adults in Jefferson County,” she said.

So, why is this occurring?

To be blunt, Comstock said, it’s because of the Delta variant.

“The Delta variant has changed the playing field in our ongoing fight against COVID-19,” she said. “And I’m really trying to impress upon you, the need for schools to adjust in regard to this new Delta variant to protect your students, faculty and staff.”

Sample testing conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows the Delta variant is now responsible for more than 90% of all COVID-19 infections in Colorado.

Comstock said vaccinations are not where it needs to be to protect the county’s children as they return to school this month. 

More than 58.7% of eligible school-age children are currently vaccinated in Jefferson County.

Of the 1,318 COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County in July, 69.7% were among those who’d had no vaccination. Another 5.5% of cases were among individuals that were partially vaccinated.

Comstock said the data shows that the overwhelming majority of deaths from COVID-19 are among the unvaccinated, and every individual under age 20 hospitalized due to COVID-19 has been unvaccinated.

“We haven’t had a single hospitalization in Jefferson County among 12- to 19-year-olds who are vaccinated — every single one has been unvaccinated,” she said.

JCPH data shows that among adults, 87.4% of those hospitalized for the virus in the county are unvaccinated.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, a professional group that represents more than 67,000 pediatricians nationally, and the Colorado chapter of the AAP, which represents more than 80 pediatricians in Colorado both recommend a layered approach to make schools as safe as possible for teachers, students and staff.

That layered approach says all students old enough to get the vaccine should do so. And all children over age 2 and all staff should wear masks unless there’s a developmental condition that prohibits use.

CDPHE has also released a document to help schools follow Centers for Disease Control guidance. Its recommendation is for schools to consider universal masking or at a minimum, masking for unvaccinated individuals indoors.

In addition to Colorado guidance, the CDC has released guidance for reducing the spread of COVID-19 in a school setting. It too, recommends mask wearing, vaccination for all those who are eligible, screening, testing, isolation and quarantine.

Six days later, on the evening of the first day of school for most Jeffco students, the district changed its policy to match that guidance, requiringall students, staff, visitors and volunteers to wear masks while indoors at any district school or building.

The district announcement said that the policy change reflected a new public health order from JCPH.

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