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Staff member who helped at Denver senior event tests positive for COVID

Coronavirus testing has become more available in Colorado.
The STRIDE Community Health Center runs a drive-thru testing center screening for COVID-19 in March in Wheat Ridge.
Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post

A staff member at a Denver high school tested positive for COVID after helping at a senior checkout and yearbook distribution event this week, school officials said.

Thomas Jefferson High School in southeast Denver sent a letter to families Saturday notifying them of the possible exposure and shared the letter on social media. Principal Michael Christoff said the staff member worked Monday and Tuesday May 18 and May 19, and began to feel sick on Wednesday. The staff member was wearing a mask and gloves on both days they were assisting students and had no symptoms at that time, Christoff said.

About 230 students, some accompanied by their family members, attended the senior checkout during the two-day period. They all stayed in their cars, Christoff said. District officials believe the staff member likely had contact with fewer than 10 of their co-workers because the school limited the number of people working at each station, and the stations were spread out.

The news comes as high schools around the state have been bringing students together for graduation and continuation ceremonies after weeks of isolation. Most of these events involve careful social distancing, but some counties have variances from the state to allow larger gatherings, and some areas are going ahead with in-person graduation ceremonies despite not having permission.

Gov. Jared Polis eased Colorado’s stay-at-home in late April and some businesses have gradually reopened with precautions in place. There have been outbreaks at nearly every type of workplace, from postal service distribution facilities to grocery stores to child care centers. Polis expects to issue guidance this week on summer camps.

Schools are also in the midst of developing plans for fall instruction that likely will include a mix of classroom and remote learning for most districts. Teachers and parents have raised concerns about how school can be conducted safely, even as there is widespread agreement that remote learning has not worked well for many students.

The incident serves as a reminder that the coronavirus is still prevalent in the community. In an email to Chalkbeat, Christoff urged everyone to continue following public health directives.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the federal Centers for Disease Control encourage anyone who has had close contact with an infected person should stay home for 14 days since the exposure. COVID-19 symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, and fever. Anyone experiencing potential symptoms should contact their health care provider.

For now, the school is postponing additional yearbook distribution until June to allow for more cleaning.

“At this time we need to continue to band together in support of our T.J. family and community,” Christoff wrote in the letter. “Please wear your masks, wash your hands, and maintain physical distancing. … Please take good care of yourselves and the ones you love.”

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