SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Public health officials say kids are beginning to drive community transmission of COVID-19.
In Salt Lake County, data shows (as of Thursday) cases of the virus are highest among the county’s elementary school students in the last two weeks, which accounts for 1-2 of the 264 cases, according to the Salt Lake County Health Department.
In Granite School District (GSD), there are 39 cases in elementary-age students. Spokesperson Ben Horsley explains why their elementary schools are experiencing higher case counts.
“It’s more correlated with the fact that we have more elementary students that we would have more elementary school cases,” he states. “Without the ability to be vaccinated at the elementary level, we do anticipate higher numbers than we’ve had in the past.”Salt Lake County data shows the highest transmission of COVID-19 currently among elementary-age students
Mask mandates are not allowed under current Utah law. And a vaccine is not yet an option for children younger than 12.
“The best thing anybody can do is to get vaccinated,” says Nicholas Rupp, a SLCOHD spokesperson. “If you’re ineligible for a vaccine, wear a mask is second best.”
The state is providing KN95 or K95 masks to any child who wants one. Horsley tells ABC4 that school principals will provide those upon request.
With the help of the county health department, Horsley says GSD is doing what it can to keep students and teachers safe and healthy.
“At the elementary level, we try to keep grade levels together, class together, you’re sitting with the same students at lunchtime, so if there is exposure, it’s likely limited to that specific group,” he assures.
With cases of COVID-19 on the rise once again, Rupp says public health officials are preparing for it.
“Just like last year, with additional contact tracers, additional staff, to help deal with that onslaught of additional cases,” he states.
Right now, the district is averaging about six and a half cases a day, Horsley says. In November, the district hit a peak of 56 new cases in one day.
As of Thursday, Rupp says almost 50 percent of Salt Lake County students 12-to-17-years-old are fully vaccinated. The health department encourages more students to get the shot, in an effort to limit the virus’ spread.