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Two-Week ‘Soft Closure’ Of All Utah Public Schools Announced

FILE: Gov. Gary Herbert.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Gov. Gary Herbert announced all of Utah’s public schools will undergo a “soft closure” for two weeks, beginning Monday, March 16, to help implement social distancing and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

During the two-week period, schools will continue to serve meals and buildings will be staffed. Officials said schools will implement online instruction, offline instruction or a combination of both. If a school is already online, it should continue business as usual.

“We’re not going to close the doors at schools for those folks,” Herbert said. “Providing meals and a roof over their head and a place to go.”

One-on-one or small group tutoring will continue where needed and services for students with disabilities will continue. Schools will stagger student pick-up of school work, books or other items.

Officials said parents and students can expect to receive more information from their school districts and charters in the near future — a list of district releases can be found here.

Herbert said the move is a “preventative measure” and the state will reassess the situation at the end of the month. The Utah Coronavirus Task Force will then decide a course for the first two weeks of April at that time.

“We feel strongly that the best way to keep our communities healthy is to implement these measures early, rather than late,” he said. “Acting now to limit community spread will help reduce the number of cases of coronavirus that we see, so that our healthcare community will have the capacity to care for patients who need help.”

Sydnee Dickson, state superintendent of public instruction, said this is a dismissal, not a closure. The Utah State Board of Education will meet later this week and could determine if time will need to be made up or not in the summer.

“To be clear, we are in prevention mode, not reaction mode,” Dickson said. “We are not reacting to a confirmed COVID-19 case in any of our schools, rather we are entering a critical new phase in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Schools and districts that have spring break next week or the following will incorporate the break into the two-week period.

Utah Officials Hold Coronavirus In Schools Press Conference

LIVE: Gov. Herbert, state health officials giving further directives to Utah’s public schools after giving directions to prepare for closure in order to implement social distancing and prevent the spread of novel coronavirus on Thursday.

Posted by KSL 5 TV on Friday, March 13, 2020

Dr. Kurt Hegmann, director of the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Utah, said all Utahns should practice social distancing during the outbreak and stay six feet away from people as much as possible. These measures can help slow the spread of the coronavirus and add time to develop and research treatments.

Lt. Gov Spencer Cox said this is not quarantining every student in the state, but the dismissal is about limiting large gatherings to prevent the spread of the virus.

“There’s nowhere I would rather be right now than Utah,” Cox said. “Our state is prepared for this. We will take care of each other. We will mobilize our communities. There is good for each of us to do. Utahns are coming together to care for their vulnerable neighbors. We will get through this, together.” 

Officials also said districts will develop plans to utilize and pay all employees, whether or not their role is directly related to instruction.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

Coronavirus Resources

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The latest coronavirus stories from KSL TV can be found here.

Your Life Your Health: How can parents prepare their home, children against coronavirus?

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC does not recommend wearing a facemask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.

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