Can local health departments step in to shut down school extracurriculars?

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In this photo posted on Twitter, students crowd a hallway, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga. The 30,000-student suburban Paulding County school district in suburban Atlanta resumed classes Monday with 70% of students returning for in-person classes five days a week, days after the principal at North Paulding announced some members of the football team had tested positive for COVID-19. The district says it is encouraging mask use, but isn’t requiring it. (Twitter via AP)

Utah (ABC4 News) — The coronavirus has changed the adjustment process for students returning to school this fall. Not only are students, teachers, and families dealing with what the return to school looks like for them but what all school-related extracurriculars like, dances, plays, and sporting events will look like.

Utah has 41 school districts throughout the state and each one faces different coronavirus challenges.

The Utah Department of Health, UDOH, says they understand how important school extracurricular activities are to students, their families, and even to Utah communities and say they acknowledge the important rolls extracurricular activities and sports play in student’s lives.

So far this fall several schools have changed learning plans canceled events like homecoming and even scheduled sports due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Due to closures, cancelations, and shifts of these events, the Utah Department of Health is asking students, schools, families, and community members to take extra precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in efforts to preserve other events.

“It will take everyone working together and taking precautions to make sure students get to participate in these important activities,” as stated by the UDOH.

According to the health department, all current health guidelines are recommendations from the state, there is nothing enforced. If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the student will need to isolate at home and not participate in school-sponsored extracurricular activities or sports.

The decision to transition from in-person learning to hybrid or remote learning will be made by school administrators with the local school board and the health department.

Guidelines from UDOH recommend the school has a two-week digital-only learning if more than 15 students at one school test positive. Officials with the health department told ABC4 News that even though the guidelines put in place are not currently being enforced, each county health department has the authority to shut down any school or group due to “unfit” health protocols, similar to how they can shut down restaurants.

For questions or concerns on how COVID-19 outbreaks in schools and guidelines learn more here.

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