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Local students may be allowed to quarantine for fewer days if exposed to the novel coronavirus, according to new state guidelines.

Under the new “Low Risk Test and Return” guidelines from the Utah Department of Health, quarantined students, staff members and teachers may return to school early as long as the school verifies that:

— Both the quarantined individual and the person who exposed them were properly wearing face masks,

— The individual gets a negative result on a COVID-19 test taken at least 7 days after the last exposure to the person who tested positive, and

— The individual does not have COVID-19 symptoms.

Individuals who don’t meet all three of the Low-Risk Test and Return requirements will be asked to quarantine for the full 14 days from the last day of exposure recommended by guidelines already in place.

Currently, the Bear River Health Department recommends that health care providers test all people with symptoms. BRHD epidemiologist Caleb Harrison told The Herald Journal that after consultation with local testing sites, the department expects to update that recommendation soon to include all people who have likely been exposed to the virus, whether they’re currently showing symptoms or not.

The Cache County School District is monitoring 34 active cases of the virus as of Friday, and Logan City School District reported 13 as of Thursday. That’s up from 20 active cases in CCSD reported Wednesday and 5 active cases in Logan reported Monday.

Harrison said Wednesday that BRHD epidemiologists so far have not seen any cases of the virus spreading inside local classrooms. Research indicates that young people are less likely to develop symptoms from a novel coronavirus infection, however, and tracking asymptomatic cases is much more difficult — especially when individuals need to exhibit symptoms to be tested.

The 7-day rolling average of newly detected COVID-19 cases in the Bear River Health District was about 55 per day as of Friday, up from 35 a day one week ago.

“We are seeing a concerning increase in our 7-day average of positive cases, along with an increase in our hospitalizations,” Berentzen stated Wednesday. “It is also clear that much of this increase is community spread in many areas.”

Since the school year began, health officials have seen the most rapid increase in cases among college-aged residents both locally and on a state level. That trend is slowing, Berentzen said, as BRHD is seeing increases in other age categories.

“Please take seriously the importance of our continued efforts,” Berentzen stated. “I know you have heard the message many times, but help us by remaining vigilant in physical distancing, wearing masks, washing your hands, and protecting those who are most vulnerable.”

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