Denver reconsiders reopening middle, high schools amid increased COVID-19 cases

Denver Public Schools is reconsidering opening its secondary institutions for in-person learning following an upward trend in the number of COVID-19 cases that city officials warn could force Denver into another shutdown.

Superintendent Susana Cordova said Monday that she and other administrators are “taking a closer look” at reopening middle and high schools based on advice from health experts, who caution older students may be more susceptible to the virus. DPS is still planning to host elementary school students for full-time, in-person learning, she said.

“The overriding priority will continue to be the health and safety of the entire DPS community,” Cordova said. “At the same time, we want to make sure we’re doing our part to support driving down the COVID numbers in the city.”

Cordova will be meeting with health experts as well as the Board of Education on Monday to discuss the issue. Families should know more details about any revisions for middle and high schoolers within 24 to 48 hours, she said.

According to Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver’s seven-day average case rate sits at 127, a level the city saw during the height of the pandemic in May. The local positivity rate is about 4% to 4.5%, he said. Denver’s seven-day average hospitalization rate is also up 37% compared to the week of Oct. 3, Hancock added.

While many of the cases can be attributed to college students returning to the area, Hancock warned he may have to take additional steps to curb the spread of the virus given the impending flu season.

“We are at a fork in the road,” Hancock said. “Let me be clear, if our numbers continue to keep going in the direction they’re going, we could be forced to go backwards.”

Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, underscored the mayor’s point, stating some of the metrics the city uses to determine business reopenings and capacities, including case numbers, suggest we should have more restrictions.

“Hospital rates are stable, but up much higher up than we would like them to be. And our positivity rate is increasing,” McDonald said. “We need to more than ever double down on face coverings, double down on physical distancing, or all of us will need to stay home like we did in March and early April under the stay at home order.”

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