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New program allows Colorado students, staff to stay in school after COVID-19 exposures

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DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public health and Environment announced a new program that will allow for students and staff in Colorado schools exposed to COVID-19 to remain at school in lieu of quarantining.

The program, dubbed "Test to Stay," allows students and staff who are exposed to COVID-19 at school to remain in school instead of entering quarantine, as long as they remain asymptomatic, mask properly and complete a series of COVID-19 tests.

“An exposed student or staff member will take the first test as soon as they are notified they have been exposed. If this first test is negative, they may stay in school so long as they wear a well-fitting mask and remain asymptomatic,” CDPHE said in the press release announcing the launch of the program. “They should then test again five to seven days after their exposure to COVID-19. If the second test is also negative, and they remain asymptomatic, the student or staff member can continue to remain at school.”

“Staff and students must wear a well-fitting mask consistently and correctly while around others for 10 days following their exposure to a positive case, even if their rapid tests are negative and regardless of masking policies at that school,” the press release reads. 

All public, private, charter and tribal schools in Colorado are eligible for the program. Schools will not need to receive school district authorization to participate, meaning that the decision to enroll is left to each school individually.

According to the CDPHE website, all schools who choose to participate in the program will receive over-the-counter self tests produced by health technology company Abbott. CDPHE will be providing the tests to schools for free. 

In addition to testing supplies, CDPHE will also provide all participating schools with access to the NAVICA app and reporting platform to report their test results. 

[Related: If you test positive on a rapid COVID test, don’t stop isolating just yet, virologists say]

Test to Stay enrollment is now open to all schools via the online enrollment form.

“We are committed to helping ensure students continue in-person learning and are providing schools with a  menu of testing resources to help make that happen,” Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, said in the press release. “We encourage schools to enroll in this and other testing programs so students can continue to benefit from being in the classroom.”

Corbett Stevenson is a journalism intern at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can contact her at

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