LOGAN, UT — It’s been a week and a half since the new COVID-19 protocol went into effect in three Utah counties that allows for test-to-stay events to happen at the classroom level rather than schoolwide. In that time, no elementary schools in the four school districts have had to test students, but one classroom will this week. Health officials are optimistic this will reduce the spread through entire schools.
“We felt like this was a reasonable measure because there was precedence,” Bear River Health Department Health Officer Jordan Mathis told ABC4. The health department implemented its own “Test to Stay” program for elementary schools on September 20.
Health Officer Jordan Mathis explained that the precedence for how elementary schools across three counties and four school districts is based on how schools screen for lice. He added, “You identify the positive cases, and then, you do a quick screening of everyone. If they’re positive they’re excluded, they get the treatment, and they come back.”
This means instead of waiting for a school under 1,200 students to reach a threshold of 30 COVID-19 cases (as outlined under state guidance) and testing the entire student body, elementary schools will follow test-to-stay protocol when a classroom hits a threshold of three cases during a seven-day period. Secondary schools will still follow the guidance of the state’s “Test to Stay” program and hold testing events on a schoolwide level.
“We all want our kids to have as much of a normal life as we possibly can, and in order to do that, this is not a very invasive way to do so,” Bear River Health Department Public Information Officer Estee Hunt told ABC4 about the health department’s “Test to Stay” program.
As of September 29, no classrooms had to hold a test-to-stay event. However, the health department confirmed to ABC4 that one classroom will have to this week. The department is not releasing the name of the school where the event will take place, but parents will be notified.
Last week, Mountain Crest High School met the threshold of 30 cases. This meant there had to be a schoolwide test-to-stay event. After testing was done, 42 additional students were positive for COVID-19. Since then, there have only been three new cases at the school.
“The Mountain Crest test-to-stay event show, those things really do work,” Estee Hunt stated. “They really do work, and they were able to keep all the other students in school.”
Caleb Harrison, the health department’s epidemiologist, had this to say about the schoolwide test-to-stay event: “The good news to share is that where we did have the test-to-stay, we’ve seen a sharp drop-off in cases. So that action likely prevented more spread in the school and surrounding community that would have continued had the school not acted.”
Health officials are happy to see cases down at the high school.
As for the elementary schools, they don’t want to get to the point of needing to test the entire student body. That’s the reason for the new protocol. Jordan Mathis added: “The goal would be to be very targeted, and hedge off the need for a test-to-stay in an elementary school to really focus on the classroom and get ahead of it before it becomes a bigger issue.”