COVID-19 Case Counts In Schools Prompt Many Students To Quarantine
Utah reported another record high number of new COVID-19 cases Thursday. 1,198 cases were reported. Schools along the Wasatch back continue to use state and county health protocols to keep students and staff safe, but with recent increases statewide, they’re now closely monitoring student cases.
The Park City School District adopted a COVID case count dashboard which is on their website, pcschools.us. Their case count jumped from three posted on Wednesday to seven cases as of Thursday morning.
Three cases come from Ecker Hill Middle School, one from Treasure Mountain Junior High School and three from Park City High School.
The COVID dashboard does not delineate how many students or staff are in quarantine. As Park City School District Superintendent Jill Gildea states, the quarantine situation does not mean that a student or employee will become ill.
The cause for quarantine, she says, has to do with close contact to a person who is positive. The metric is defined as having contact within a six-foot distance for greater than 15 minutes.
According to Summit County Public Health Director Rich Bullough, they don’t have exact numbers of students who are in quarantine, but he says they are investigating a few cases in school-age children that were newly reported as of Wednesday.
“I know specifically one case that I am aware of that was an earlier case had 12 contacts that went into quarantine. I heard rumor of a case that had over 20 contacts that went into quarantine. We're hearing from a fair number of parents of children who are students who are quarantined and given the volume of that feedback you know the numbers I would speculate are, you know I hate throw a number out, but they’re significant.”
The calculations for quarantining students or staff will vary by grade levels. In elementary school, it is typically 2-5 students per classroom that would have been in contact with the positive case. As of this report, there are no reported cases in any of the four Park City elementary schools.
The quarantine protocol for secondary school students in middle, junior high and high school, is a different calculation because students attend more classes per day. Kids at this age are often involved in extracurricular activities as well. For each active case, there may be 20 – 30 students who must quarantine.
Bullough says the quarantine time period is 14 days without having to be tested.
“And the assumption is made that the disease has run its course in those 14 days, if they had the disease. That assumption is not 100% accurate but it's pretty darn good. But I'm certain there are numbers of people out there that are not being tested. They are quarantining. From what we can tell, compliance with quarantine in our community is quite good.”
Bullough believes most people get tested if they have been exposed but recognizes that it depends on community cooperation and compliance.
“We know there are issue of families that are on the verge of not being able to pay bills and individuals not being tested so that they can go to work. We know that's occurring and I think that scenario in the perception of a young person isn't a lot different than not being able to play an in an athletic event and we don't have clear evidence that people are avoiding testing. I'd be surprised if some of that wasn't going on. You know, young people and their parents, these athletic events are important to them.”
The schools use a COVID-19 exposure and response protocol when a case is confirmed. It includes contact tracing and parent notification of all those students who might have been exposed. If additional positive cases occur from the contact tracing, the protocol requires a letter sent to all parents at the school.
The North Summit School District and South Summit School District have no active cases as of this report.
Wasatch County reported 11 new cases on Thursday for a total of 724. It is one of five Utah counties reporting an increase in COVID numbers.
Wasatch County School District did not respond to KPCW’s request for a school district case count. A link to the COVID-19 School Manual can be found on their website, wasatch.edu.
The Wasatch County School District COVID-19 update can be found here.