SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – School-associated cases of COVID-19 have been a concern throughout the pandemic, and it continues into the last few weeks of the school year.
The coronavirus in Utah schools hit a record low in mid-April, as the Utah Department of Health reported 517 cases over a two-week timeframe.
Since then, data shows cases are slowly beginning to increase, with some declines.
On May 8, data showed 823 cases among students and teachers, the last high day as of Friday.
School-associated cases settled at 547 cases on Monday.
In charge of COVID-19 efforts in Utah’s K-12 schools, Program Manager Maggie Graul said variants of concern and larger gatherings could be the reason for the rise in cases.
“There are more events happening at the end of the year – dances, graduation – where you’re getting more people together from both inside and outside the school community,” Graul said.
She said schools are doing their best to be a safe place for students.
“The data that we have from the last year, screening monitoring shows that schools are a safe place to be when the appropriate measures are taken,” Graul said.
With the school year coming to an end, and children 12 years and older eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Graul said she hopes it will drop cases.
“We’re hopeful and hoping that we’ll continue to see a decrease in that, and we’ll be able to have a safe and overall uneventful end of the school year, as related to COVID-19,” she said.
But, with masks only being recommended the last week of school, and a small percentage of children vaccinated, Graul said the increase in cases could lead to a minor spike in school-associated cases.
“It’s absolutely possible and that’s something we’re monitoring internally,” she said. “We’re looking at percent positivity out of the entire school population. Anytime there’s more than 1% of the school population that has a current COVID-19 infection that’s been identified.”
A health department spokesperson told ABC4 News that school data is subject to backfill as it goes by the data the case was reported to public health.
She said, for this reason, the number the health department has will be higher than what was actually reported on the daily reports, but she said the trend is still the same.
The Centers for Disease Control updated their advice, noting masks should be worn at least until the end of the school year. Graul said children masking up is still a good idea.