091421-COVID test-CPT

Central High School is hosting one of the testing sites in the Grand Valley. Chavelle Hunter is the site manager for the COVID-19 testing facility here checking people in for a test. There are a number of COVID outbreaks in District 51 schools that officials are keeping an eye on, but changes to mask policy aren’t forthcoming.

Christopher Tomlinson/ The Daily Sentinel

School officials are monitoring a number of outbreaks in District 51 schools, although the outbreaks have largely not met the level that would require whole schools to mask up.

There are 22 schools in the valley listed as having active COVID-19 outbreaks by Mesa County Public Health.

According to D51’s COVID-19 dashboard, as of Tuesday there were 56 positive cases in the district, 44 students and 12 staffers.

Brian Hill, D51 assistant superintendent, said the district is trying to be proactive with positive cases.

An outbreak occurs when there are five or more cases in a cohort over a period of 14 days, Hill said.

“We’re always concerned when we have COVID cases,” Hill said Tuesday. “We always have to find out where they originated from.”

Hill said the district’s goal is to keep kids safe and in person at school, so if things were to change in a way that was preventing kids from being at school, the district would reconsider its policies and adjust.

Despite the number of active outbreaks, no district schools have reached the 2% positive threshold for requiring masks school-wide since Grand Mesa Middle School did so last week, Hill said.

The school district has begun putting data for students missing because of other illnesses online with its COVID-19 data.

Hill said that information is usually kept in-house, but the district decided to make it public to make finding the information easier and cut down on sending letters to affected families.

The number of students missing school with other illnesses isn’t particularly concerning at this time, Hill said.

“We always have a percentage of students out with different illnesses,” he said. “Especially this time of year.”

The district has also joined a program through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that provides testing supplies to schools in order to test kids, with consent, without parents having to pick them up and take them to a testing site, Hill said.

Those tests should be arriving any day now, he said.


At Colorado Mesa University, there have been 27 positive cases this week and 56 so far this semester, according to its COVID-19 dashboard. The college is at alert level green, in which transmission levels are considered low.

Dr. Amy Bronson, who runs CMU’s physician assistant program, said the university is on the alert for clusters and large outbreaks, but isn’t seeing those so far.

Bronson said the university is prepared to take steps to stop the spread if there’s an increase in cases.

“We’ll be ready to pivot if we need to, and that’s part of our ongoing response,” Bronson said.

Students who test positive are being isolated in the Piñon Hall dormitory, Bronson said.

According to the COVID-19 dashboard, approximately 95% of the school’s quarantine/isolation beds are available.

If a student needs to isolate, how their isolation will work is explained by staff members who escort them to Piñon Hall, Bronson said, and people are on call if the students need anything.

Isolated students attend class via Zoom and have meals delivered to them, Bronson said, and there is plenty of wraparound care such as games to keep them occupied while in isolation.

There was one minor communication issue in which an isolating student wasn’t clear on some of the procedures for ordering food, Bronson said, but that has been cleared up and some language on one of the posters in the dorm has been changed to make it more clear.

Bronson said there haven’t been any other issues with the isolation procedures so far.

“It’s sort of normal dorm life,” Bronson said. “They’re just a little more isolated from the social aspect.”