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Masks on at Parley’s Park; school district explains new COVID counting rules

Parley's Park Elementary School
Parley's Park Elementary School

Park City schools have new criteria for counting COVID-19 cases in schools, after it was discovered last Friday that at the direction of county and school district officials, school nurses and substitutes were using a counting system not aligned with Utah Department of Health guidelines.

According to Park City School District superintendent Dr. Jill Gildea, the system used until the end of last week was the same one used throughout the previous school year. But in August 2021, the state health department issued new guidelines for counting, which weren’t implemented in the district. As a result, cases were being overcounted.

The guidelines that PCSD began using this week say that a case of COVID-19 must be confirmed positive with a laboratory test performed by a CLIA-licensed laboratory, doctor’s office, school, or local health department in order to be recognized as a confirmed case. Only confirmed cases are counted towards the 2 % positive threshold needed to mandate masks in Summit County schools.

Park City’s discrepancy came to light last Friday after Parley’s Park Elementary School had risen above the 2 % threshold that triggers Summit County’s mask mandate. Parley’s has 559 students, so 13 active cases triggers the mandate.

A state-level review of the Parley’s cases on October 29 determined the school was actually just below 2 %. But the campus still ended up officially above the threshold using the new metric on October 31, so everyone at Parley’s Park is wearing a mask for the next 14 days.

Beginning October 28 and continuing over the Halloween weekend, the Parley’s Park case counts were fluctuating above and below the 2 % level, causing some confusion and alarm within the school community. That was amplified this week as a Parley’s Park parent who was at school said children are still unmasked on school buses.

Summit County Health Director Dr. Phil Bondurant said other Summit County school districts have been using the correct COVID case counting system since the start of the current school year.