SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The Summit County Public Health Department is investigating a recent outbreak of COVID-19 among Summit High School students. Health officials believe the 22 confirmed cases are tied to social gatherings and parties outside of school.

“We are aware of at least one party that several of the infected individuals attended, including students that were known positive cases and close contacts of positive cases that had been ordered by public health officials to isolate or quarantine,” Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland said. “We are dismayed at the direct violation of the stay at home orders, and that parents permitted students to disregard their isolation and quarantine orders. This puts everyone in our community at risk.”

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The health department said that increased transmission of the virus puts vulnerable members of the community at risk.

The high school suspended in-person learning for two weeks to help enforce isolation and quarantine orders. Students and teachers will return to class on Nov. 9.

Health officials received most of the students’ positive test results between Oct. 16 and Oct. 22. Many of the students did not have class together, but nine of them did attend a large party on Oct. 17.

Two of the students attended the party while under orders to quarantine and while in their infectious period, health officials said. Officials believe that party was the catalyst for the spread of the virus.

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Several of the students also attended a party on the weekend of Oct. 10-11 and others attended an out of town sporting event.

“In addition to countless hours of public health time spent on these investigations, twenty additional cases like we saw at Summit High School have the ability to push us over the threshold for Safer at Home, which could mean more severe and economically damaging restrictions imposed by the state,” Assistant County Manager Sarah Vaine said. “It is disheartening to see these behaviors occurring without consideration of how others will be impacted.”

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Summit County Public Health is conducting contact tracing to determine who else may have been exposed to the virus. Students who attended any of these gatherings are urged to get tested for COVID-19.

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Testing is available in Frisco at no cost and a doctor’s note is not necessary. Individuals can call 970-668-5584 to receive a telephone screening (no prescription required) and testing referral.

Audra Streetman