Utah schools enacting test-to-stay protocols due to COVID-19 surge
SALT LAKE CITY — Schools across Utah are seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases among students and staff, which has led some to implement test-to-stay protocols.
- Schools with 1,500 or more students have 2% of their students test positive for COVID-19 within the previous 14 days.
- Schools with fewer than 1,500 students have 30 students test positive for COVID-19 within the previous 14 days.
“When a school meets the Test to Stay thresholds, the LEAs (local education agencies) in consultation with the local health department will work together to offer testing for all students. LEAs may request assistance from the UDOH for testing supplies, mobile testing units, and other support. School staff are not required to participate but can do so if they choose,” the state’s coronavirus website states.
At Northwest Middle School in Salt Lake City, 200 students — nearly one-third of the student body — are on quarantine due to COVID-19, and several elementary schools are flirting with test-to-stay numbers. District administrators say they want to keep schools open and they’re still working out the dates and details of their testing.
“When we have schools that have hundreds, literally hundreds of students absent in a day, it’s hard to provide these students with the kind of education that we want to be providing for them,” said Salt Lake City School District spokesperson Yandary Chatwin.
Students may continue in-person learning if they test negative and do not have any symptoms of COVID-19. Students who test positive for the virus, however, must isolate at home.
According to the Utah Department of Health, students who do not participate in the test to stay event must quarantine at home for 10 days. They can return to in-person learning after 10 days or as soon as they get a negative test result. That document could be updated to follow CDC guidelines, which say those who test positive only need to isolate for five days if fever-free for 24 hours after the fifth day.
Those who test positive should wear a well-fitting mask until day 10, avoid travel and avoid being around high-risk individuals.
“The goals of Test to Stay are to allow students and staff to participate in in-person learning as safely as possible while lessening the burden of quarantine on students and their families, teachers, and school administrators. It was first implemented in K-12 schools in Utah on January 4, 2021,” read a document from the Utah Department of Health.
Here’s a list of the schools that had reached the threshold for test-to-stay protocols as of Tuesday night:
- Davis School District:
- Granite School District:
- Skyline High School
- Jordan School District:
- Bingham High School
- Copper Hills High School
- Herriman High School
- Mountain Ridge High School
- Riverton High School
- Salt Lake City School District:
- East High School
- Highland High School
- West High School
- Park City School District
- Park City High School
Dr. Angela Dunn, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, warned the test to stay program is likely to fail with more and more schools reaching the threshold.
“Most of our school districts are struggling to keep teachers in,” Dunn said. “Relying on Test to Stay to protect our schools and keep them open is not going to be viable for very much longer.”
Dunn added staffing shortages and supply issues won’t allow local health departments to keep up with the demand of test-to-stay protocols.
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