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Utah County wants a new plan for COVID-19 in schools

Sep 14, 2021, 8:04 PM | Updated: Sep 15, 2021, 9:32 am

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FILE - This Jan. 7, 2015 file photo shows public school buses parked (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

PROVO, Utah  –Utah County officials say they have a new plan for trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools and elsewhere in the community.

A draft of the letter outlining the plan was sent to KSL NewsRadio.

Letter [Photo Credit: Lindsay Aerts, KSL NewsRadio, Twitter]

“…We as community leaders, public servants, and health professionals desire to implement a disease plan that will support individual efforts to mitigate the most disastrous effects of COVID-19 infection,” the letter reads. “We continue to commend efforts that individuals voluntarily take to help protect those most vulnerable to this virus.”

The letter details what has been done, and what has been encouraged, regarding COVID-19 protections in Utah County schools and Utah County government buildings. It highlights practices including increased airflow, sanitation, quarantining guidelines, and recommending masks indoors. 

Then, it further outlines recommended action for schools.

If a school in Utah County reaches a 1% positive rate, we encourage them to take additional steps to
slow the spread of the virus by taking mitigation steps such as:
• Canceling or rescheduling nonessential indoor activities until positive rates reduce.
• Moving as many activities outdoors as possible.
• Increasing sanitation and encouraging everyone to wear a mask.
• Sending a letter home to parents or caretakers informing them that the positive rate in that
school has increased and educating them on ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in their
homes and communities.
At a 2% positive rate in a school, the state requirement of “Test to Stay” would go into effect.

Letter [Photo Credit: Lindsay Aerts, KSL NewsRadio, Twitter]

County Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardiner said this plan is based on discussions with the Utah County Health Department, all three school districts in Utah County, and all three county commissioners. 

“We recognize that antibodies received through infection lead to natural immunity. Vaccination and natural immunity both offer significant protection against COVID-19,” the letter reads in bold letters.

Scientists continue to study the immune response among people who recover from COVID, including whether those people should receive the vaccine. 

Powers Gardiner told KSL NewsRadio that the discussions with county health officials also led to other findings.

“We found the people that previously had a COVID-19 infection, they are not getting delta variant,” she said. “If they do it’s a very, very mild case. We haven’t seen anybody in hospitals here in Utah County that had a previous positive Covid test that came in with Delta variant.”

KSL could not independently verify that claim, though researchers point out the delta variant is much more contagious than past strains, and they do not know for sure how long natural immunity lasts after a previous infection.

She also claimed through contact tracing, they found kids in Utah County schools aren’t getting COVID-19 from other kids in schools. 

“The kids that are testing positive for Covid in our schools, at least here in Utah County, they didn’t get it [Covid] at school,” she said. “What we’re finding is that the kids that are testing positive at school are getting it at home and out in the community.”

Similarly, KSL could not independently corroborate that assertion. Currently, school-age children account for between 20 and 25% of the daily case increases in Utah, but the totals do not specify where children got sick.

Powers Gardiner said Utah County’s Health Department Director, Eric Edwards went to commissioners concerned about the spread in schools.

“The health department director didn’t come to us and say, ‘I want a mask mandate,’ right,” Powers said. “He came to us and said, ‘I’m concerned about the numbers trending in schools, let’s explore options.’”  

A health department spokeswoman declined to comment on this plan. However, they did update how many cases have been detected in Utah County’s schools. 

“Our epi team this afternoon … reported 26 current outbreaks within classrooms at different elementary schools in Utah County. An outbreak is defined as 3 positive cases in a 14-day period,” said spokeswoman Danielle Chapman. 

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Utah County wants a new plan for COVID-19 in schools