By Friday, the Bear River Health District — one of the highest transmission areas in the state — had 385 new confirmed COVID-19 cases this week, but officials say the spike cannot be pinned to a specific age group.
“It’s not just college-aged or middle-school-aged kids,” said Josh Greer with the Bear River Health Department. “It’s pretty consistent spread. It’s out in the community, and we have nothing really to pinpoint, as far as where it’s coming from.”
When universities in the state resumed in-person learning, the spike in COVID-19 cases was expected. In mid-September, roughly 60% of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Bear River Health District could be traced to college-aged individuals, according to Greer.
Now, only about 10% of new cases are in that age group.
“This has gone beyond a specific group of people,” Greer said. “It’s certainly impacting the entire community.”
Of the 1,136 active cases in Cache County, only 165 are students or staff at the Logan campus of Utah State University.
Part of that could be attributed to the proactive stance on mitigation efforts the university took early on, according to Amanda DeRito, a member of USU’s Coronavirus Task Force.
“It probably helps to work and learn in a place that has a consistent message of wearing a mask, doing all these precautions, social distancing, and, we’ve worked really hard to make sure that all of those things are happening in the classroom, in office spaces,” DeRito said. “We have signage to reinforce it wherever you go. It’s kind of like this very persistent, constant message.”
Though K-12 schools don’t have the space or staff available to limit class sizes, there has been a strong emphasis on cleaning and hygiene practices, along with mask requirements.
Shana Longhurst, the communication specialist for the Logan City School District, reported to the board of education on Tuesday that despite the “pretty strong and high community spread ... our families are being vigilant, and it’s very evident in the fact that our case counts are really pretty low.”
Logan’s school district accounted for 14 cases on Friday, and Cache County School District had 33. In both districts, cases are split half-and-half between students and adults.
Though Sky View High School saw a small outbreak as the virus spread through the volleyball team earlier in the month, CCSD spokesperson Tim Smith said he was “not aware of any significant school spread at this time.”
In Logan, Longhurst said there have only been two cases of school spread — both adults.
“We’ve had no cases of student-to-student, or student-to-teacher,” she said. “The quarantines we’re doing, they’re disruptive, but they’re working. Our students and staff are not contracting COVID-19 in the school setting.”
According to Sarah Fitzgerald at Logan Regional Hospital, 60% of the area’s cases comes from family members or household-spreading, where “one person comes home sick, and then it’s pretty much inevitable that the rest of the family is going to get sick, too.”
Greer added, in the last two weeks, 61% of all BRHD cases were reported as “known contact” — where an individual self-reported they’d been in contact with a known COVID-19 case. He said 50% of those cases were household spread and 18% were social contact.
The same finding was reported in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released Friday. It said after a household member contracted the virus, “Secondary infections occurred rapidly, with approximately 75% of infections identified within five days of the index patient’s illness onset,” regardless of the age or race of the first positive.
Mask use and immediate isolation may lower the risk of spread within households, according to similar reports abroad.
Greer said this highlights the importance of staying home when sick, and Longhurst attributed the low cases numbers in Logan schools to parents and families following this guidance.
“We appreciate families and their efforts in keeping students home when they’re not feeling well,” she said. “It makes a big difference if one of those students is sick and does test positive. If they haven’t been in school, then we don’t have to quarantine others because they haven’t been there to spread it.”