Colorado school district closes more than 40 schools after contagious virus outbreak

Henrietta Brewer
November 21, 2019

The school district said Wednesday afternoon that the schools will be closed Thursday and Friday.

A Colorado school district shut down in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving as it works to eradicate a contagious virus that is thought be to spreading rapidly across its schools.

Mesa County Public Health, which is working with the district to stop the spread of the illness, believes norovirus may be the culprit. Thursday is already the last day of school before the week-long Thanksgiving break. "The combination of the two has created an unprecedented spread of illness", said Tanya Marvin, the nursing coordinator for the school district.

It's the first time the school district has ever closed due to illness.

Norovirus, sometimes called the "stomach bug", is easily spread through direct contact, consuming contaminated food or water, or touching contaminated surfaces and then putting your hands in your mouth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

'The decision to close is the right move, ' Jeff Kuhr, executive director of the MCPH, said in a statement.

The district says vomiting is a symptom for both types of viruses.

Earlier this week, the district had announced that four schools - Rocky Mountain Elementary, Juniper Ridge Community School, Palisade High School and Mount Garfield Middle School - closed because of the virus.

'We understand that a district-wide closure is an inconvenience to families and a rare step to take, ' Dr Diana Sirko, District 51's superintendent, said in a statement.

D51 officials say their custodial crew is working hard to disinfect schools and the closure will give them the time to perform an intense cleaning of school buildings.

According to the district's website, the schools host 22,105 students and 2,685 teachers and staff members.

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