(CBS4) – Masks are recommended for everyone in schools in Jefferson County when classes begin for the new school year, regardless of vaccination status. That’s one of the new COVID-19 guidelines Jefferson County Public Health announced on Friday afternoon, in an effort to have “a healthy, safe return to in-person learning.”

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It comes on the heels of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement that local health authorities are urged to consider heightened prevention strategies like “universal masking” for public indoor settings due to the surge of cases involving the more transmissible delta variant.

JCPH’s recommendations also apply to child care centers. They also recommends that “all eligible youth and adults” get the COVID-19 vaccination and that testing and isolation/quarantine protocols be implemented.

In Jefferson County the percentage of people between the ages of 12 and 15 who haven’t received their first dose of the COVID vaccine is at about 45%. About 40% of people ages 16 to 24 have not received their first dose.

JCPH came up with the guidelines after reviewing the recommendations from the CDC, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

JCPH Executive Director Dr. Dawn Comstock shared the following prepared statement about the recommendation:

“Jeffco’s children have already given up so much in the last year and a half. It’s on all of us to help make sure they don’t lose any more by missing out on in-person learning and beloved school-based extracurriculars because of illness, quarantines or outbreaks. We all have a role to play in keeping our community and our community’s kids safe. If you haven’t already, get vaccinated now. If you’re in a school setting – regardless of if you’re a student, teacher, staff member or parent – we strongly urge you to wear a mask at all times. In-person educational activities must be emphasized, prioritized, and protected; they are simply too important to our children to allow them to be endangered.”

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Jesse Sarles