On Thursday Utah’s Department of Health unveiled its much anticipated school re-opening guidelines. The 102-page document provides schools and the public with a roadmap on how schools should go about resuming in the fall.
If a student or teacher contracts COVID-19 or has COVID-19-like symptoms they will be required to stay home, said state epidemiologist Angela Dunn at a press conference Thursday morning.
“Those who are close contact to a confirmed covid case at school will have the option of having a modified quarantine, which means they can attend school if their parents would like them to,” said Dunn.
Students in modified quarantine won’t be allowed to participate in afterschool activities, extracurriculars or visit any other public places. These students will only be permitted to go to school, where they will be expected to wear a mask and socially distance, just like the other students.
Gov. Gary Herbert said that asymptomatic spread in schools may be possible under the Health Department’s plan.
“I’m sure there’s no guarantee that it can’t be spread in schools like it could be spread any place else,” said Herbert. “We’re trying to mitigate and minimize including even closing down the classroom and maybe closing down the school.”
Decisions on whether or not to close down schools will be made by the individual districts said the State Board of Ed Superintendent Sydnee Dickson. Schools have the latitude to create a hybrid of online and in-person instruction, or decide to be fully remote. Herbert said that adapting to the ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic reminds him of a game of whack-a-mole.
“We’re whacking the mole and as we solve one problem it creates another problem or it has an impact somewhere else and we have to whack that mole and that creates another issue,” said Herbert.
Herbert said he’s optimistic about the recent downward trend in new coronavirus cases.