Yellow Brick preschool closed after possible virus outbreak

Warren Klug reading to preschoolers at the Yellowbrick in Aspen during a program supported by Kids First.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times file photo

A preschool at the Yellow Brick Building closed Wednesday for the rest of the week because of a possible COVID-19 outbreak, public health authorities said.

However, public health and preschool officials emphasized that no positive cases of the virus had yet been confirmed Wednesday because test results were not yet available.

“I would definitely not call it a COVID-19 outbreak,” said Carrie Tippet, executive director at The Early Learning Center. “We were advised by Public Health to shut down as a precaution.”

Meanwhile, authorities were investigating a “sizable” outbreak of the virus at a construction site in the Starwood housing development on Red Mountain, said Pitkin County Environmental Health Director Kurt Dahl. Garfield County Public Health officials are leading the investigation there because the nine confirmed cases are all Garfield County residents, said Josh Vance, an epidemiologist working for Pitkin County Public Health.

Pitkin County Public Health authorities were notified Saturday of the outbreak, which apparently began June 24, Dahl said. Further cases have popped up about every five to seven days after that date, he said.

Transmission of the virus appears to have taken place on the construction site, and state public health authorities have directed local authorities to classify the cases as an outbreak, Dahl said. The cases are a mix of employees of the general contractor and sub-contractors, Vance said.

Pitkin County Public Health has taken the lead in contacting subcontrators, Vance said.

The Starwood construction site has been closed, they said.

At The Early Learning Center at the Yellow Brick, located in Aspen’s West End, both children and adults were reported to have a “COVID-like illness,” Vance said in an email to The Aspen Times.

“We don’t have a specific number at this time as we’re still investigating, but we did receive reports of several individuals out sick with COVID-like illness and some isolated cases of hand, foot and mouth disease, which is not uncommon,” Vance said in the email. “The preschool contacted public health due to concern over abnormal rates of absenteeism and reports of illness.”

The investigation began Tuesday and included testing of children and adults, said Vance and Tippet. Results of those tests were expected Thursday or Friday, Tippet said in a phone interview, adding that some children were tested Monday and others Tuesday. “I do want to reiterate that we do not have evidence of COVID-19 spread on the campus at this time, but recommended closure out of (an) abundance of caution,” Vance said. “The preschool was very proactive in their approach to these reports of COVID-like illness and has been taking all necessary and evidence-based steps to avoid transmission on campus.”

The preschool was scheduled to be closed through Friday, Vance and Tippet said.

The main symptoms reported were congestion and a persistent cough, Tippet said. The symptomatic children and staff were from “various classrooms,” according to Tippet’s email to the preschool’s parents.

“It’s so hard to tell what it could be,” she said. “That’s why we took precautions and closed.”

The Early Learning Center has 96 children enrolled in the preschool, Tippet said.

The school had one case of hand, foot and mouth disease, which occurred two weeks ago, Tippet said. That child tested positive for the disease on a Sunday and did not return to school until the symptoms abated, she said.

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