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Wasatch County schools offer free COVID-19 tests as cases increase

Daniels Canyon Elementary School Wassatch County School District WCSD
Ben Lasseter
Daniels Canyon Elementary School, located south of Heber City in Daniel, has a student population of 595.

With COVID-19 case numbers on the rise in Wasatch County schools, public health teams are coming to campuses to offer free testing.

Rocky Mountain Middle School and Daniels Canyon Elementary began the week in special COVID-19 protocols.

Under level two of the school district’s COVID mitigation plan, they’re isolating students who’ve been exposed to the virus until Thanksgiving break. The schools entered level two when there were 15 active cases on the same day.

Daniels Canyon Elementary held a testing clinic Monday, and another is happening Thursday morning. Wasatch County Health Department Epidemiologist Chris Smoot said it’s open and free to the public, but the intention is to uncover potential undetected student cases.

“Being proactive, they reached out to us to see if they could have these testing events, just to try to identify anyone who might be a case and try to slow down and prevent reaching that threshold,” Smoot said.

School district information officer Kirsta Albert said schools "would never trust a student without parental permission" to take a COVID test.

The Wasatch County School District’s guidelines require exposed students to stay at home for 10 days. Alternatively, they can come to school wearing a mask and stay away from other students during that time. If they show a negative test seven days after their exposure, they’re free to return to school unmasked.

Students are exempt from the protocol if they’ve been vaccinated or prove they had COVID within the past 90 days with a positive test.

At 30 simultaneous active cases, a school would enter level three. State law requires a test-to-stay program at that point, wherein all students at the school must test negative to return to campus.

Last Thursday, Soldier Hollow Charter School reported having eight active cases and hosted a testing clinic the next day. As of Tuesday, there were 18 active cases at the school out of about 300 students. The charter school isn’t part of the Wasatch County School District and determines its own policies.

A parent of a student there reported the school asked in an email for their child, who had an exposure, to wear a mask on campus or quarantine for 10 days. Soldier Hollow administrators declined to comment on the school’s COVID policies.

Two other schools in the district are close to triggering the level two protocol early this week. Midway Elementary School reported 11 active cases Tuesday, four cases shy of triggering the protocol.

Because of Wasatch High School’s larger student body, it follows percentages of active cases, not numbers. It would begin isolating students with exposures at 1% and implement test-to-stay at 2%. As of Monday, active cases were at 0.9%.

“We are getting close in those two schools,” Smoot said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we hit those thresholds, but everything’s pretty unpredictable. The decision for the school to go to the level two, that’s really up to them. The only thing that’s mandatory from our perspective is if they hit the 2% or the 30 cases, then that’s when state law comes in and says that the test-to-stay event needs to happen, where all the students get tested.”

The health department began vaccinating children ages five through 11 against COVID last week. It had given shots to just under 300 in that age group since the CDC approval, with 30 more scheduled for Wednesday. Several pharmacies and doctor's offices in Wasatch County have also been offering child immunizations.

Thursday’s testing at Daniels Canyon will last from 9 a.m. to noon. The school is at 688 East Wheeler Road in Heber City.

Also in Wasatch County, a weekly testing clinic takes place Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Wasatch County Event Center, located at 415 Southfield Road in Heber.

Both are open to the public and offer free rapid and PCR tests.

For more on COVID tests or to book a vaccine appointment with the health department, visit wasatchcountyhd.org.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.
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