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Dolores rescheduling homecoming events after virus spike

The Dolores school district reported a spike in COVID-19 cases this week.
The district saw an upward trend in COVID-19 cases this week, particularly in the secondary school

Dolores School District RE-4A had a surge in COVID-19 cases this week, and postponed its homecoming events, according to Superintendent Reece Blincoe.

The district quarantined more than 60 students this week, he said – about 30 of them in the sixth grade alone. Over 20 students tested positive for the virus, and two additional elementary school students tested positive Thursday, he said.

The situation began to improve Thursday, though, as some students and staff returned to school, Blincoe said.

“We were able to pull this together,” he said.

The only homecoming event that proceeded on schedule was the high school volleyball game Thursday against Mancos, according to the district’s website.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has not yet recorded the cases on its outbreak map.

CDPHE updated its definition of an “outbreak” for most settings June 1. In locations like schools, workplaces, events and dorms, an outbreak occurs when there are five or more confirmed or probable cases, with at least one case having a positive molecular amplification test or antigen test.

Blincoe said the spike began at the end of last week, and climbed this week.

“We literally went from zero,” he said.

On Wednesday, the secondary school entered “Yellow Status” – the third tier of the district’s five-category “Infectious Disease Safety Protocols.” The rubric was created over the course of a few school board meetings, and breaks down different health procedures by number of cases in the district. It may be adjusted at some point if needed by the district’s designated Wellness Committee, Blincoe said.

In yellow status, all staff are required to wear masks, but they are still optional for students. No visitors are allowed on campus. For this protocol to go into effect, 3% to 5% of students on one campus must become infected. This is equivalent to 13 to 21 secondary students, 10 to 15 elementary students or three to five preschool students.

Currently, the preschool and elementary school are following “Blue Status” — which is in effect when 1.5 to 3% of students on one campus are infected. This means anywhere from six to 13 secondary students, five to 10 elementary students or one to three preschool students are infected. In blue status, masks are optional – except for food handlers – and visitors are limited.

“We’re trying to be careful and safe and follow precautions,” Blincoe said.

He said that while the district does its best, it is unable to make everyone happy. Some parents contact him to oppose mask-wearing, and others contact him to support stricter virus regulations, he said.

“I hear it from both sides,” he said.

The high school is planning to reschedule its homecoming football game for Oct. 15, with dates for the other events to follow.

"We’re going to try to do our best to bring everything back,“ Blincoe said.

He said a group of seniors emailed him and secondary school principal Justin Schmitt asking about the possibility of holding the homecoming events.

Blincoe said he was touched, finding their ability to express themselves mature.

“I took it to heart,” he said.

He wants them to feel seen.

“We’re trying to keep you in school, we want these events too,” he said.