September COVID-19 school cases lower than previous projection

Sep 29, 2021, 4:32 PM
FILE PHOTO (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)...
FILE PHOTO (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — The number of COVID-19 cases among school-age kids in Utah is lower than a previous state health department projection. 

Utah health officials tweeted on Aug. 31, forecasting a potential 39,000 COVID-19 cases among school children in the month of September.

The reality turned out much lower. 

September COVID-19 school-age cases lower than predicted

As we approach the end of September, there are considerably fewer COVID-19 cases in kids between 5 and 17 years old than predicted at the end of August. 

The Utah Department of Health reports roughly 9,200 cases in this age category for the month of September so far. 

Agency officials say a discrepancy like this is nothing new. 

“We do a lot of modeling so we know how we can guide our response,” said health department spokesman, Tom Hudachko. “We know that models are always wrong. No model is ever right, but they are helpful.” 

That response includes allocating testing staff for test-to-stay events and other test-related needs. 

Hudachko says different models showed different projections. One model showed an 8,000-case projection. Another showed as many as 60,000 cases. 

“The median for most of our models showed that about 39,000 cases is what we might experience. It’s looking now as we head into the last couple of days of September that, thankfully, the numbers that we’re actually experiencing are much lower than that,” Hudachko said. 

The health department spokesman says a surge in cases at the start of the school year, the highly contagious delta variant, and few schools with mask requirements were factors in their models. 

What are the districts seeing? 

At least one school district says school-age cases have been a significantly smaller problem than anticipated. 

“We’re seeing about 122 cases out of 62,000 students and staff right now,” said Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsely.

The biggest disruption caused by the pandemic, according to Horsley, has been contact tracing. Contract tracing can take a long time to conduct because of a number of variables schools must consider. They must verify proximity, mask-wearing, vaccination status, and much more. 

“If masks were being worn in the moment of exposure, if the individuals involved are vaccinated, if any of those individuals have had COVID within the last 90 days,” Horsley said.  

Horsley says district officials were planning for a worst-case scenario, but have been pleasantly surprised by a plateau in cases since mid-September. 

Parents can check out current information about school-age COVID-19 cases on the health department’s coronavirus website,

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.
  • Seek out the COVID-19 vaccine.

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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