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Herbert announces school closure changes, lifts 10 p.m. alcohol sales ban

Gov. Gary Herbert hosts his final "Let Me Speak to the Governor" program on KSL NewsRadio on Dec. 17, 2020. Photo: Robynn Garfield

SALT LAKE CITY — In his final scheduled news conference as governor, Gary Herbert announced changes to the way a school decides on a COVID-19 related closure Thursday. 

 

Starting now, if students wear a mask when they come in contact with a COVID-19 positive person, but do not test positive themselves, they may return to school. Previously, students who were possibly exposed to the virus had to isolate themselves for 10-14 days. 

Additionally, Herbert confirmed teachers remain next in line to receive the recently authorized COVID-19 vaccine

Director of the Utah Department of Health, Rich Saunders, announced the department is extending the mask mandate for K-12 students and staff. He also said the statewide mask mandate will continue. 

Herbert, health officials announce new closure protocol for school districts 

Saunders also expanded on the new school quarantine and closure protocol announced by Herbert. 

Authorities announced a revised threshold for when a COVID-19 outbreak requires the closure of schools in Utah school districts. In Utah schools with 1,500 or more students and staff, an outbreak occurs if 1% of the school population contracts the virus. For schools with less and 1,500 students and staff, 15 or more cases reported cases is considered an outbreak. 

But instead of closing when the threshold is met, schools will have two options, said Saunders. First, schools can implement a “Test to Stay” option. Granite and Davis School District have already implemented this option. 

“Under “Test to Stay,” all students and staff are offered the chance to receive a rapid antigen test,” explained Saunders.

“Students who test negative can continue to attend school in-person. Those who test positive, or who choose not to be tested, should move to virtual learning for 10 days.” 

The second option is schools can move to remote learning for 10-days following an outbreak. 

Saunders also said the state plans to continue the “Test to Play” protocol for student-athletes and coaches. 

“We have seen a high level of participation, it is flexible and sustainable, and has helped us get a better understanding of prevalence among these students and staff,” said Saunders. 

The department is also expecting a spike in cases following the holiday school breaks. In order to combat the spread of the virus, Saunders said they will expand testing in communities with an uptick in infections. 

“We will offer [COVID-19] testing to schools and communities experiencing an outbreak following the holiday break,” said Saunders. 

Herbert lifts 10 p.m. alcohol ban 

At an earlier news conference, his monthly appearance with reporters, Herbert announced the state would end a restriction on alcohol sales after 10 p.m. that has been in effect during the pandemic. The restrictions end on Friday.  

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has particularly impacted the hospitality industry, especially local bars and restaurants.  

“The owners of bars and restaurants have committed to making their establishments safe places. They will enforce physical distancing, limiting capacity, wearing masks when people are not actively eating or drinking, and staying stationary while eating or drinking,” said Herbert. 

30 additional Utahns die from COVID-19 

The Utah Department of Health reports another 30 Utahns have lost their lives to the coronavirus, setting a new record for deaths reported in a single day. However, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said the deaths occurred within the last four weeks. 

Among those who passed away, five were between the ages of 45-64, 16 were between the ages of 65-84, and nine were 85 years old or older. 

Five people were not hospitalized at their time of death, 11 were hospitalized at their time of death, and 14 died in a long-term care facility. 

Additionally, 3,203 more people have contracted the coronavirus and 556 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 complications. Out of the 556 patients, 211 are in intensive care units. 


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet).
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities).
  • Obtain a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

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