Washington County School District discusses new quarantine protocol, stricter mask enforcement

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ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) — At the beginning of the week, administrators at the Washington County School District implemented the state’s new protocol for quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19.

There are approximately 300 students and staff currently quarantined, and less than 20 students and 20 teachers and staff currently testing positive for the virus, according to director of communications Steven Dunham. Typically, for each positive case, about 20 other individuals need to quarantine.

“That’s alarming and that’s something we need to get a better control of,” Dunham said. “That’s why these guidelines from the governor’s office lowering the quarantine days from 14 to seven is much more helpful in doing that.”

The Utah Department of Health, under the direction of Gov. Gary Herbert, has approved a “Low Risk Test and Return” protocol for quarantine. Students and staff may have their quarantine reduced from 14 days to seven if they meet all of the following criteria: 

  • Both the person who tested positive and the individual (student, teacher, or staff member) who was exposed (within six feet for 15 minutes or longer) were wearing face masks at the time of exposure.
  • The individual waits at least seven days prior to submitting to a COVID-19, PCR, or antigen test.
  • The test results are negative.
  • The written results of the test are submitted to the school principal or administrator.
  • The student, teacher, or staff member does not have symptoms of COVID-19. 

There are still no outbreaks within the Washington County School District, according to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD).

“We have not had any student-to-student, student-to-teacher, or teacher-to-student transmission,” according to officials.

With the governor’s Tuesday announcement, administrators will need to be much more vigilant for the next two weeks enforcing mask-wearing, such as with spectators at sporting events both inside and outside.

“I think what we have been seeing in the past is that when people enter the stadium, they’ll have their masks on but take them off once they get in,” Dunham added. “We need to be more vigilant so our schools can stay open and our student athletes can continue to participate.”

So far, there are no schools in Washington County threatened to shut down. If any school has at least five classrooms that each has at least three students testing positive for the virus, the school would be considered for possible closure and would consult with the district and the public health department to determine the best course forward, SWUPHD public information officer David Heaton told ABC4 News.

On Wednesday, SWUPHD reported 33 new cases, bringing the total active cases to 826:

  • 31 new recovered for a total of 4,152 recovered).
  • 24 residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
  • 54,918 total people tested as of Oct. 12.
  • 13.2% positive testing rate from Oct. 5-12.
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