20200730 Herbert Presser

The Utah coronavirus website says people who have been exposed to Covid-19 but are not showing symptoms may be asked to quarantine for 14 days to avoid exposing others. That’s not the case for Utah schoolchildren.

Utah announced Thursday that students will be allowed to attend classes if they have been directly exposed to the virus. The “modified quarantine” allows parents the option of keeping their children home or sending them to school so long as they are not exhibiting symptoms of the virus and no one in their household has tested positive. 

“If any close contacts start to develop symptoms consistent with COVID, they will be asked to say home,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn. “This is a process we have been using for essential employees throughout this outbreak and it has worked.”

The same rules apply to teachers and staff.

“I’m sure there’s no guarantee that it can’t spread in schools as it can spread anyplace else,” said Gov. Gary Herbert acknowledging the risk opening schools presents for students, faculty and parents. “We’re not going to sit in the corner and wring our hands and say ‘I guess we can’t do anything.’ We can do something. We will find out as we work together to find the solution.”

State Superintendent Sydnee Dixon said the new guidelines were developed with the cooperation of local health officials. 

“We know that the risk is there and these plans are taking into account all of the elements that can mitigate risks. We’ve been training all of our educators and leaders. All of these elements are coming into play to make it safer for students and teachers. There are a lot of mitigation strategies that our schools are putting in place to help with safety,’ said Dixon.

The new guidelines say a school should shut down if 15 individuals tested positive. For smaller schools of less than 100, a shutdown can happen if 10 people test positive. 

Utah recorded 502 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, dropping the seven-day rolling average to 508.