HEALTH

Utah schools face Test to Stay challenges, lawmakers will consider pausing the program

Jan 13, 2022, 9:04 AM | Updated: Feb 23, 2023, 1:22 pm

Test to Stay schools...

Many COVID test sites across the state are expected to close. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Some schools don’t have the resources to test their students for the Test to Stay state policy. Now, Utah lawmakers are considering pausing the program.

The list of schools implementing a Test to Stay protocol keeps getting longer here in Utah. More than a dozen high schools in Salt Lake County have implemented the program. But conducting so many tests is a huge challenge for the schools and health departments. 

Putting “test to stay” to a pause?

House Speaker Brad Wilson addressed the challenges Utah schools face on KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic Thursday morning. Wilson announced major news. The omicron variant has created a rise in COVID-19 cases that schools and health departments cannot keep up with. 

The House Speaker explained lawmakers are considering putting the Test to Stay program to a halt as many schools face shortages of testing equipment with so many cases. 

KSL NewsRadio host Debbie Dujanovic announced the development after the live interview. Dujanovic reported Wilson plans to announce more details on Friday. The announcement will arrive a day after the Salt Lake County Council has made an official decision on whether students will continue to be required to wear masks to school.

The Test to Stay state guideline

Utah state law has a Test to Stay policy for schools during the pandemic to determine whether schools should continue to teach in-person or move online.

The policy states requires all schools with fewer than 1,500 students to enter their Test to Stay protocol if more than 30 people, students or faculty, test positive for COVID-19. 

Any school with more than 1,500 students will initiate the policy if 2% of the population is infected with the coronavirus.

However, the manager of the Epidemiology Bureau at the Salt Lake County Health Department says there may not be enough tests to test all of the students.

Mary Hill told KSL TV’s Morgan Wolfe the Salt Lake County Health Department hasn’t received their latest shipment of testing supplies. As such, they don’t have the capacity to test as many people as they did before. Now, the local health department has asked the state health department for assistance. 

Some schools are moving online

The Canyons school district announced a day of online learning next week. On Tuesday, the district explained its reasoning. 

The virtual school day is a result of constantly rising COVID-19 cases and exposure among students and staff, which result in absences and staffing shortages. The district’s emergency Remote Learning Day will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 18 after the holiday for Martin Luther King Jr.

On Wednesday, Utah’s largest school district made a similar announcement. The Alpine school district will move to remote learning on Friday, Jan. 14 and return to in person learning on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

While students and staff are away, Alpine schools will be cleaned and ready for students’ return on Wednesday. 

Contributing: Eliza Craig, Kelsey Earl, Martha Harris, Paul Nelson

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Utah schools face Test to Stay challenges, lawmakers will consider pausing the program