Weber County schools getting lax cooperation from some exposed to COVID-19
OGDEN — Lack of cooperation from students and others exposed to the COVID-19 virus has emerged as a concern as health officials try to keep its spread in check, according to Brian Cowan, head of the Weber-Morgan Health Department.
The case numbers in the Weber and Ogden school districts “are still manageable,” he told Weber County commissioners this week. “But in working with the school districts, we are learning that we’re not getting very much cooperation with isolation and quarantine.” That is, some students and others in schools who have contact with someone who has the COVID-19 virus aren’t always following recommended protocols meant to prevent its spread, like quarantining or mask use.
“We’re hearing that in several of the schools,” said Cowan, who meets weekly with school officials to discuss the COVID-19 issue. “We’re hearing that’s one of the issues the schools are really struggling with, is cooperation with the quarantine.”
Lane Findlay, spokesman for the Weber School District, said he’s aware of some cases of parents sending their kids to school “in defiance of current guidelines” governing quarantining. He’s not aware of any instances of those infected with the virus violating the protocols, though.
Jer Bates, spokesman for the Ogden School District, was more circumspect. “I cannot say definitively whether every individual has followed the recommended protocols with absolute fidelity,” he said.
Most of the cases of errant COVID-19 case management that he’s heard about, Cowan said, involve lack of compliance with guidelines on quarantining involving students who may have been exposed to the virus. But he’s received some reports of students who have tested positive for the virus breaking recommended protocols.
Unlike last year, no COVID-19 public health order is in place, so school officials have limited authority in the matter.
“As a school district, we do not have the authority to force someone to comply with the quarantine recommendations,” Findlay said. He said the health department, though, still has authority “to enforce isolation protocols” in cases of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
According to Utah Department of Health guidelines, students exposed to the COVID-19 virus may keep going to school if they are vaccinated or tested positive for the virus within 90 days, among other circumstances. Different guidelines apply for others, though, Cowan said. They should:
- Stay home for 10 days after exposure;
- Stay home for seven days and, presuming they test negative for the virus on the seventh day, then return to school;
- Go to school, but wear a mask for 10 days; or
- Go to school, wear a mask for seven days and, presuming they test negative for the virus on the seventh day, continue attending classes without a mask.
Cowan said four schools in Weber County had passed the threshold of 1% of students testing positive for the virus over a 14-day span. Schools exceeding the 2% threshold are required to implement a COVID-19 testing regimen for students, called a “test-to-stay” event.
Weber County officials, like their counterparts across the country, have been wrestling with the issue of whether to require mask use in schools.
Cowan has proposed requiring mask use at elementary schools that experience 14-day COVID-19 case rates that exceed 2%, but so far no facilities here have met that threshold, though some may be headed that way. “We have four schools that have passed the 1% threshold,” three high schools and a junior high school, he said.
The number of students testing positive for the COVID-19 virus exceeded 30 at Syracuse Elementary in Davis County, which triggered test-to-stay protocols earlier this week.