Park City School District publishes COVID-19 case numbers
The Park City School District last week released more details about how it will handle cases of COVID-19, including a commitment to publish the number of confirmed active cases in its schools each week and to communicate with parents whenever there is a confirmed case in their child’s classroom.
A posting on the district’s website includes a link to a spreadsheet that the district said will be updated each Friday. There may be a lag in the data, as confirmed positive cases will only be reported once people who have been in close contact with an infected person have been notified. The numbers will be updated once each week.
The first published results show two active cases — one each at Park City High School and Treasure Mountain Junior High School. A student involved in a third case, which Superintendent Jill Gildea said was at an elementary school, has recovered, and that data is not included in the spreadsheet.
Along with the commitment to publishing case numbers, the district sent a reminder that health data is private, and urged members of the school community not to use the information to denigrate others.
“Please refrain from speculating, shaming or blaming when a positive case at a school is identified,” a district letter states. “Despite all efforts, there is no ‘Covid-Free’ Zone. All are working diligently to maintain safety and cleanliness protocols to isolate and mitigate the spread of this virus.”
Many in the community were concerned with schools reopening, with some teachers decrying what they said was the lack of room to social distance. But Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough said there haven’t been as many cases tied to schools as he had anticipated, and that rumors that there are more cases than have been reported are not true.
“We believe our numbers, we believe our numbers are low, we believe they’re accurate. We believe it’s important for the public to see those,” Bullough said Tuesday.
He added that he had been in talks with state health officials, who he said plan to launch a statewide data dashboard with COVID-19 case information from school districts in coming days.
The district indicated it would cease publishing its case numbers once the effort is taken over by the state agency.
Bullough added that there have been no cases associated with North Summit or South Summit schools. One student in South Summit tested positive, he said, but had been attending school remotely.
In its announcement last week, the Park City School District also linked to a hundred-page state manual for guiding school districts’ responses to the novel coronavirus, last updated in early August. It includes many key definitions and protocols for how to respond to a positive test in a school environment, and is the document that Gildea said is guiding the district’s pandemic response.
When a member of the school community is diagnosed with COVID-19 — including students, teachers or other staff members — that triggers a protocol for everyone who is a “close contact” of that person to quarantine, as well.
In the Park City School District, Bullough said the average number of close contacts per case has been between 10 and 20. He indicated that those sitting in desks near the diagnosed student would quarantine, but those who sit farther away in the same classroom would not be required to do so.
The Utah Department of Health guidelines define a close contact as someone who has been within 6 feet of the person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes up to two days before that person got sick or tested positive.
A person who has tested positive for COVID-19 may return to school once they have been fever-free for 24 hours without medicine and it has been at least 10 days since they first had symptoms or tested positive, according to the guidelines.
If a student was sitting next to someone in school who was diagnosed with COVID-19, that student would have to quarantine for 14 days, according to state guidelines. The members of that student’s family would not have to quarantine unless that student also tested positive.
Bullough said there is enough testing to sufficiently test close contacts of confirmed cases.
Officials have indicated that schools might have to go back to fully remote learning if case numbers prompt the county to revert to an “orange” level of pandemic response. Barring that, Bullough said that there are clear metrics for a school or classroom to quarantine: A classroom would move to remote learning if three or more students tested positive, while an entire school would do so if there were 15 positive cases, or cases in 10% of the student body, whichever amount is smaller.
The district stressed its increased sanitization protocols, including cleaning areas where students who have tested positive for COVID-19 have spent a considerable amount of time, like classrooms. Officials also reiterated the importance of preventive measures.
“We appreciate everyone doing their part to take care of themselves and others by wearing masks, physically distancing, practicing good hand hygiene, and staying home when ill,” the district stated in its online posting. “By continuing to reinforce these practices, we will be able to keep our schools open and provide a healthy and safe learning environment for all.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the district would notify parents whenever there is a positive case in their child’s school. Superintendent Jill Gildea clarified that parents will be notified only when there is a positive case in their child’s classroom or if there is spread of COVID-19 in a school beyond an isolated case.
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A Trailside resident, and Snyderville Basin Planning Commission member, launched a write-in campaign for the Park City Board of Education hoping to “get the trust of the community back.”