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Utah HERO Project working to study COVID-19 spread

Spencer Moore, a medical assistant with University of Utah Health, checks the saliva level of a COVID-19 test at the Rice-Eccles Stadium testing site in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020.

The data collection ‘HERO project’ in Utah is showing how schools – especially elementary schools – are safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HERO Project at the University of Utah has been tracking the spread of COVID-19 through the community along with its effects on the economy.

HERO stands for Health and Economic Recovery Outreach. It is sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget. They set it up as a way to accurately determine how much COVID-19 has spread in Utah, without having to test every person in the state.

Working with other agencies, it has had a broad-based testing program for both community members and school children. They work with school districts to set up testing (more information on that is available here).

And they are finding out that elementary school children are far less likely to spread the new coronavirus than high school students.

“There are certain characteristics of elementary schools. Students tend to be in a single setting, rather than multiple settings during the day,” said U professor Steven Alder.

Members on the HERO Project team have testified to school officials and Utah lawmakers about the low transmission rates for schools with safety measures, because of this data they have been collecting.

The HERO Project has been testing and tracking the pandemic since last spring in the state, in a partnership with the CDC and other agencies.

Alder says they’ve determined that some public health measures can have a positive impact on the economy.

“Things like mandates of masks actually have a benefit to economic activity,” he said.

They say stopping the spread of COVID-19 and reengaging in social and economic life requires transitioning from social distancing to a testing system that provides accurate information quickly.

The project determined that exposure to the coronavirus in the general public has risen to about ten percent. It was one percent in June.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States


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