D49 El Paso County COVID Data Update Jan. 19, 2021
OVERVIEWKey measures of population health are all moving together in a positive direction. Over the last seven days, the case rate measure, test positivity, and hospital burden have all improved.In addition to the positive metrics, we also observe that nearly 46,000 residents now have “natural immunity” via recovery from infection, and thousands of residents are proceeding through inoculation toward vaccine-based immunity. Every recovered or vaccinated individual reduces the potential pool of future cases, and improves overall community conditions. With vaccination accelerating, we anticipate that we’ll be able to maintain and further enhance improving community conditions. We also affirm the Governor’s decision to move school personnel up into the “1B" phase for vaccine distribution, meaning that D49 workforce members who want to receive the vaccine will have that option even sooner than initially projected.Our major caution as we restart in-person learning is the pattern, observed in many communities nationwide, that normalizing school operations can correlate with increased community activity, mobility, and transmissions. Although schools are not a direct vector for increased transmission, with extremely low infection rates compared to the community, they may catalyze other conditions that do drive increased transmission. Because schools operate downstream from the community, we redouble our exhortation for all students, staff, and residents to maintain the same, effective, personal practices that have helped our community recover from the December wave of cases and illness.HEALTH DATA
County health data has improved in the last two week, with elevated levels and improving trends.
elpasocountyhealth.org/ covid19data-dashboardOn the three key population health measures, this is the status as of Tuesday morning, January 19, 2021:Summary Chart:Key Measure #1: 14-Day Incidence per 100,000 *Lower is better
Rating: SEVERE RISK Level with Improving Trend
The Case Rate has decreased from 515 last Monday to to 451 today. This metric remains in the “SEVERE Risk" range (>350). Guidance from county and other public health officials is to continue monitoring for any evidence of a sustained surge that may disrupt the overall positive trend.Key Measure #2: Daily PCR Test Positivity (14-Day Average) *Lower is better
Rating: CONCERN Level with Improving Trend
The test positivity rate is improved from last week (9.14%) to 7.15% today, above the public health target (maximum) of 5%. We want that number lower, so it is beneficial that test positivity measure is stable or improving. The average turnaround time for testing is stable at 3.0 days. Due to logistics realities for collection, transfer to lab, and lab processes, any average turnaround under two days is near optimal. As individuals return from holiday travel and seek precautionary testing, we anticipate that the total number of tests will increase, the turnaround time will increase temporarily, and the positivity rate may become more volatile, with short-term erratic patterns of increases and decreases.Key Measure #3: Community Health Agency Burden
Rating: FAIR/GOOD with Beneficial (Improving) Trend
This measure is a composite of hospitalization and death rates, which reveal the intensity of infectious spread and resulting illness. Although it is a self-reported measure with some subjectivity, the fact that total hospitalizations have decreased since early December is a positive indicator of decreasing burden on hospital facilities and services. Note that hospitalizations are a lagging indicator following case rates and test positivity by approximately 10-14 days.DISTRICT INCIDENT DATABecause operating in E49 reduced opportunities for on-campus transmission, and because of the two-week monitoring period after the holiday break, we are restarting our monitoring effort and will return to routine publication of school and district data on our dashboard.
January Return to Learn Plan
As we bring our first semester to a close, we want to wish you a happy holiday season, and share a look ahead to our planned return to learn in January. We know the D49 Family does its best work in person, so we are determined to bring back in-person learning early in the spring semester. With the possibility that holiday gatherings and travel will extend our current level on the Colorado COVID-19 dial, our county health partners recommend we monitor health data for two full weeks after the New Year. That makes January 19 the best target to restart in-person learning.We invite you to listen to an overview of our plan in this message from Peter Hilts, D49 Chief Education Officer.
Like you, we can’t wait to see our schools filled with students and staff. The key for us is that when we come back in person, we want to stay back. We’ll stay attentive to county health conditions and re-populate our campuses in stages, just as we did in September, knowing that stability is just as important as speed.
Based on current trajectories and projections, our strategic sequence will go like this:
Jan. 6 - Staff will return to work under the on-site/remote conditions of E49 Red.
Jan. 6 - District 49 will update and confirm our planned sequence based on county data levels and trends.
Jan. 7 - Students will return to learn on remote status. Schools will use the first days of the semester to establish schedules and rosters for E-learning and to set a foundation for future in-person learning.
Jan. 7 - Grab-and-go meal service will resume at all seven district locations.
Jan. 11 - In the second week, we’ll bring staff back in person to manage E49 and prepare for students’ return.
Jan. 11 - We will restart serving special populations on campus, and continue E49 for all students.
Jan. 19 - In the third week (after MLK Day), we’ll restart our full-population, full-schedule in-person learning for PreK-2 students.
We will continue E49 for all students 3-12
Jan. 25 - In the fourth week we’ll add grades 3-5 to the elementary schedule.
Jan. 25 - In the fourth week we’ll also reestablish the 50-50 in-person/E-learning hybrid for middle and high schools
For PreK-12 students who choose E-learning, we’ll continue that service through the semester
*If county conditions degrade and county partners advise us it is too risky to return, we will announce that adjustment as soon as we get that guidance. Otherwise, weeks 1-4 will correspond to the four weeks of January and the dates above.
Several encouraging factors are building our confidence about this strategic return to in-person learning. After Thanksgiving, we didn’t see a surge in cases that would endanger our neighbors and overwhelm our hospitals. So, as current risk levels are slowly improving, we are counting on our community to lead us into January with stable or improving conditions.
We’ll continue with our safety system, the washing, disinfecting, masking and distancing that helped us keep at-school transmission to a minimum. We will also start the semester under new guidance from the governor’s back-to-school roadmap that reduces the impact of precautionary quarantines, and gives us better methods for targeted contact tracing. And, we’ll emphasize personal responsibility for symptom checking to make sure no one comes to school or work when they don’t feel 100%. District 49 is also working directly with county leaders and third-party providers to provide dedicated testing times for district personnel to complete free, as-needed PCR testing, the most reliable option available.
We also know the vaccine is coming, and that’s a source of greater hope for our long-term return to normalcy. Based on current planning, school staff are in priority group two to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The two-dose inoculation takes four weeks to administer, and six weeks for an individual to reach full immunity. That schedule, plus the slow ramp up of available doses, means that we won’t really see the large-scale benefit of vaccinations until after spring break. Accordingly, we expect to maintain our safety system through the end of the school year.
With all that we’ve endured, and all that we hope, we trust you will have a true holiday break with meaningful and refreshing time for yourselves and your families. Knowing that promising days are ahead, have a wonderful holiday, and we’ll see you in the new year.
Peter Hilts, Chief Education Officer
Brett Ridgway, Chief Business Officer
Pedro Almeida, Chief Operations Officer
D49 COVID-19 Tracking Dashboard
As the COVID-19 crisis has progressed, our ability to predict and respond to rising infection rates has improved. As a result, we are continuing to track the impact of positive cases on our students and staff as we conduct contact tracing, precautionary quarantines, and other protective measures.
D49 COVID Tracking Dashboard LINK
Please keep students home if they don’t feel well
Dear D49 Families,
We want to share a friendly reminder that sending learners to school requires at-home health screening every day.
Along with the excitement of reuniting and getting to know each other in our return to in-person learning, we are already experiencing the challenges of illness in our classrooms. As we are seeing, even minor symptoms can have significant ripple effects to our return to in-person learning. Guidance from our partners at El Paso County Public Health supports our nursing staff as they assess children showing COVID-like symptoms at school, and also informs their appropriate response, which in some cases requires sending home cohorts of learners and school staff.
Parents can help! Please keep students home if they don’t feel well, or are experiencing symptoms in the following checklists:
Symptoms Observed or Reported:
1 or more MAJOR SYMPTOMS
- Feeling feverish, having chills or temp of 100.4F or greater
- New or unexplained persistent cough
- New or unexplained shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Loss of sense of taste or smell
2 or more MINOR SYMPTOMS
- Sore throat
- Runny nose or congestion
- Muscle or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting
EMERGENCY COVID-19 WARNING SIGNS include: trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish lips or face. Seek medical attention immediately by calling 911.
Students should stay home if they are experiencing:
1 or more major symptoms and/or 2 or more minor symptoms indicated on the table above.
This, and more useful information may be found on the D49 Nursing Services webpage. We encourage all of our families to become familiar with this process. Paired with our system of safety protocols, following these steps will give D49 our best chance at making this school year the safe and memorable one we know it can be.
Thank you for your time, understanding, and enduring trust.
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