‘Pretty big risk’: Crowded Utah classrooms could expose students and teachers to COVID-19

Coronavirus Updates

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) –  As parents grapple with the decision whether or not to send their kids back to school, how can they evaluate the risks?

Well, one way is a new online tool designed to help you calculate the chances of exposure to the virus.

Georgia Tech and the Applied BioInfomatics Laboratory created the COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool, an interactive map that allows you to determine the chance that at least one person infected with the coronavirus will be present somewhere, based on location and size of the crowd. 

By applying this data to Utah Public Schools which typically have a few hundred to a few thousand students, teachers, and staff on campus every day, the data is concerning, especially given our crowded classrooms.

Insurance comparison website Insurify recently did a nationwide study on pupil to teacher ratios.

“Out of the 50 states, Utah has the third highest pupil to teacher ratio,” Insurify’s Emily Leff told ABC4 News Wednesday. “There are about 22.75 students per teacher whereas the national average is 15.49 so that’s about a 32 percent difference…It’s not even limited to classrooms. This poses risks for lunch, for recess where students are running around or for hallways.”

According to the Georgia Tech map, there is a wide range of risks depending on location and number of students. For purposes of example, we compared an urban and a rural high school. West High School in Salt Lake City has an enrollment of 2,840 students. Zoom in on the map and you see the current risk level is greater than 99%. On the other hand, Emery High School in Castle Dale has just 591 students. The map reveals a less than 1% chance of someone with COVID-19 present at a gathering of that size there. 

Still, Leff, whose company is expanding into health insurance quote comparisons, had this conclusion.

“The risk of reopening schools in Utah is one of the highest in the nation,” she said. “Unless serious changes were to be made to reduce the number of students per classroom reopening schools in Utah would be a pretty big risk.”

For more information on the Insurify study, go to: https://insurify.com/insights/states-with-the-most-crowded-schools/

To see the Georgia Tech interactive map, go to: https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu/?fbclid=IwAR10ZyULW4NSqWiEaLAVwM54a4j32ShE1LU8WYbJcb9wytlrLnGljbozWIQ

COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Toolcovid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu
Emily Florez
Rick Aaron, has more than 24 years of experience in television news as an anchor, reporter and producer. Originally from Mississippi, Rick graduated with honors from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies and began working at KTTV Fox 11 in Los Angeles.
Click here to download the ABC4 Utah News app for the first alerts on your phone. Sign up for the ABC4 Utah breaking news and daily newsletters.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.