Headlines August 16, 2021

Headlines August 16, 2021

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Demonstrators at Colorado State Capitol Urge Protections for People in Afghanistan

The situation in Afghanistan changed quickly over the last few days.

As the Taliban captured Kabul, over the weekend, dozens of Afghan-Americans rallied at the Colorado State Capitol on Saturday.

The demonstrators In Denver wanted to send a powerful message to the U.S. government, particularly about the tens of thousands of interpreters and contractors who they say are being left behind.

One of those at the rally in Denver told 9News that the Taliban are knocking on doors, taking interpreters out of their houses and killing them in front of their families. People in the crowd shouted “Sanction Pakistan, Peace in Afghanistan.”

Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, of Aurora served two combat tours in Afghanistan. Yesterday he told 9News that he left a part of his heart there as did many veterans. He said the debate over how missteps and mistakes were made by the U.S. will continue over the coming years, but right now the main priority is to get citizens out, and then as many partners as possible.

Kids Returning to School as Districts Impose Mask Requirements

As children return to school around districts in the state, in at least one county, law enforcement will be in place as tensions rise over masking requirements.

In Eagle County sheriff’s deputies will be heading to schools to keep the peace and as a preventative measure.

On Friday the Eagle Country School District announced that students, staff and visitors to elementary and middle schools would be required to wear masks starting today.

A spokesperson for the district told the Denver Post that tensions have been really high over the weekend since the announcement, with a lot of chatter on social media including attempts to mount a walk-out and meetings to voice opinions.  However, she said they have not heard of threats of violence.

Late last week the Cherry Creek School District and Aurora public schools reversed course and announced that students and teachers in lower grades will be required to wear masks. The announcement was a change, as both districts had said masks would either not be required, or only for those who were unvaccinated.

Mask mandates are in place in Boulder Valley, St Vrain Valley and Denver Public Schools, as well as Adams 12 Five Star District.

Boulder County Health Department Recommends Masking for those Two and Older 

Boulder County Public Health officials are strongly recommending that all individuals over the age of 2 years old wear masks at indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status.

The Delta variant is causing a surge in COVID-19 cases, and the county has moved into a level called “substantial transmission” which is in the highest level under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Boulder County authorities say in a release that the Delta variant is highly transmissible and might cause more severe illness than prior strains in unvaccinated persons, including in younger people. They are encouraging everyone over 12 years old to get a vaccine.

State CDPHE Says They Have Enough Vaccines for Boosters

Colorado officials say they have enough COVID-19 vaccines to start giving booster shots to those with compromised immune systems. The state Department of Public Health and Environment made the announcement Friday after the Food and Drug Administration changed its authorization for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

Those who have had organ transplants or recent cancer treatments will also be eligible for a booster.

The state said that people won’t be required to provide proof before receiving a third dose if they say they have a qualifying condition.

The Denver Post reports that as of now, the booster recommendation does not include people with conditions that raise their risk of a severe case, like heart disease, diabetes, or advanced age.

School Bus Driver Shortage Hits as Year Begins

The new school year is beginning with a critical shortage of bus drivers for public schools across Colorado.

In Denver alone, buses usually transport 20,000 students a day. The director of transportation for that system told the Denver Post that it’s now the worst problem he has seen in nearly 20 years.

School districts across the state have lost drivers and have seen a smaller pool of applicants for the jobs. It was a problem before the pandemic and has become worse.

Tighter budgets and the divide over masking and vaccine requirements may be contributing to the shortage.

In addition to Denver, Boulder, Larimer, Weld and other districts are experiencing the same problem with drivers in short supply across the U.S.

The news outlet Education Week reports that older drivers and those with medical conditions aren’t returning to work and some switched to the private sector as schools used virtual classes last year.

Glenwood Canyon Reopens

Driving along I-70 through Glenwood Canyon remains subject to weather conditions. Yesterday the Colorado Department of Transportation closed the highway for about half an hour due to the threat of flash flooding.  It was reopened at about 5:30 p.m.

I-70 has been closed for during weeks after mudslides in burn areas. On Saturday CDOT reopened it partially Saturday.

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet and local leaders toured the damage to the road and the Colorado River. Bennet pointed out that not only is necessary to secure funding to repair the highway but also the watershed, and the water supply for the city of Glenwood Springs.

CDOT officials say there is still a lot of work to be done, but they’re hoping to have all repairs completed by Thanksgiving.

Smoke Returns to the State

For the past few days the state has caught a break from smokey skies, but they return today and tomorrow

CBS4 reports that the smoke may stay elevated in the atmosphere, but some models say it could be thick enough to trigger health alerts around Colorado.