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New Utah quarantine rules could get students back to class sooner

FILE: The Utah State Board of Education building in Salt Lake City is pictured on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Photo: Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The governor’s office is modifying quarantine rules for Utah public schools.

The quarantine period used to last 14 days, but now it’s down to seven.

Schools will let students, staff, and teachers back on campus if they meet certain criteria: 

  • The exposed person must take a nasal swab test after the seven day quarantine, which has to come back negative 
  • That person must have no COVID-19 symptoms

The exposure also had to have happened while on school grounds, while both the person who was exposed and the person who got sick had to be wearing their masks correctly at the time. 

Utah Department of Health spokesman Tom Hudachko says school districts had asked the state to review the quarantine rules because large numbers of students were sitting on the sidelines and backsliding academically. 

“Through surveying the Canyons and Alpine school districts, they’ve had about 8,500 students quarantine since the beginning of the school year, and fewer than 50 of those students have tested positive for COVID-19,” Hudachko said. 

He also wanted to reassure parents that the shorter quarantine time was safe, saying the tests catch most people who are sick. 

“Seventy-five percent of people who develop COVID-19 symptoms, will do so by seven days past their exposure,” Hudachko said. 

The state school board got a medical advisory group together, who recommended the changes to quarantines.

Most districts now expect students who have been exposed to be back on campus within eight or nine days. 

Skipping the test? Quarantine rules and students

The previous quarantine rules affected students’ sports and activities, too.

“Athletic trainers do know of coaches, parents and other kids pressuring kids who don’t feel well, to maybe go home, lay low, and don’t speak up and don’t get tested,” said Springville High School certified athletic trainer Lisa Walker.  “Can I just say, that is not good practice. That absolutely should not be done.”

Walker spoke on A Woman’s View with Amanda Dickson, airing this Sunday on KSL NewsRadio and also available as a podcast after the broadcast. 

“Please do not avoid getting tested for fear of what might happen. It’s just in the best interest of everyone, the community and the safety. We need to teach these kids to be responsible citizens and not to get around the rules,” Walker said. 

There are a lot of rules for schools and teams to follow to be Covid compliant. Walker said the coach sets the tone and assigns kids to pods to socially distance.

The rules also says they will wear a mask when not under heavy physical exertion. They also cannot share water bottles during time outs, and there is a  limit on number of participants that can be on sideline.