Pueblo Department of Public Health & Environment confirms omicron; Pueblo schools assess health guidelines

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PUEBLO, Colo. — On Thursday, Dec. 23, the Pueblo Health Department announced that they confirmed the omicron variant through wastewater testing.

They said they had found over 20 cases of it, which they also said confirmed that omicron spreads rapidly. Due to this evidence, health department officials warned businesses and schools to brace for higher levels of illness.

“Employers and school should expect rapid spread of the virus and subsequent high levels of absentees due to illness among staff and students or employees in the first quarter of 2022,” said Katie David, Pueblo County Department of Health and Environment deputy director.

Thursday evening, Pueblo County School District 70 hosted a work session and discussed the new health advisory, taking the opportunity to look ahead to create better ways to keep kids and staff safe.

The school board meeting over Zoom. Credit: PCSD 70

“The health of the students and teachers is paramount to everybody, I think, that’s on here. And it has to be. Because we can’t afford to lose anymore teachers. And the students need to continue to learn,” said Cathleen Culhane Howland, a board member of Pueblo County School District 70.

The president of the board made a case against the continued use of masks within schools.

“We have teams that are not even wanting to come to Pueblo to play sports or any other extra curricular activities because they don’t want to wear masks. So that’s causing our students and families to travel more, and if you think about it they’re less protected,” said Anne Ochs.

Many of the members agreed, saying that students can’t learn as easily while they are wearing masks.

“I think it really inhibits education. I think that that’s the risk-reward falls on the side of we ought to have kids able to see their teachers speak,” said Brad Miller, a member of the board’s council.

However, Miller said he still maintains he wants them to tread carefully.

“Even if we’re not within the public health order, because we can’t just be irresponsible because negligence and those sorts of things would give rise to a liability,” Miller said.

Pueblo School District 70 said they are still waiting on guidance from the Pueblo Health Department and said with the new variant they are willing to work together.

However, they said they continue to weigh the pros and cons of their own guidelines.

The board will meet again Thursday, Jan. 6., 2022.

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