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The Cache County Council voted against extending the test-to-stay order at elementary schools at its Oct. 12 meeting, and some members of the community are upset. The order expired on Oct. 20.

Katie Lee-Koven is a member of the Concerned Coalition who has spoken with many local leaders from the county, the City of Logan and the local health department.

“I’m not going to sit on the sidelines as a parent and hope for the best,” she said. “I’m going to advocate for what will keep my kids safe and what I think is reasonable. I’m practicable and I will continue to do so.”

Lee-Koven expressed her frustrations with the County Council and their “different” way of thinking. She, along with other members of the Concerned Coalition, have spoken at both Logan Municipal Council meetings and County Council Meetings. She has also corresponded with Bear River Health and other professionals on the best practices for her children.

“Here we have our school leaders, who really understand very much in depth the positive and negative impacts … all of those things, having experienced what happened last year at schools,” she said. “We have our health professionals saying it would be beneficial but having their hands tied because our County Council is not listening to what they have to say because they think differently. That’s where the frustration has really been.”

The Bear River Health Department order, issued in September, allowed schools to implement a test-to-stay procedure in elementary classrooms where three or more students, faculty or volunteers tested positive for COVID-19 in a seven-day period. Test-to-stay, a procedure implemented by the Utah Legislature this year, requires students to obtain a negative COVID-19 test if they wish to attend classes or school events over a 10-day outbreak period. Under the law as written by the legislature, local elementary schools would need to reach 30 active COVID-19 infections in the entire student body, as opposed to the health department’s three per classroom.

Bear River Health Director Jordan Mathis said he would encourage the order to continue because the local modification to the test-to-stay protocol has allowed classrooms to find positive cases much faster. He also stated superintendents Steve Norton and Frank Schofield would “like it to remain in place” because “it supports them if they need to take action in a situation where they are seeing elevated cases.”

Ten schools implemented the classroom test-to-stay while the order was in effect, Mathis said, and 42 additional positive cases were detected as a result.

Councilman Paul Borup was in support of letting the order expire and shared his support of natural immunity. He referenced an observational study out of Israel looking at health records of hundreds of thousands of patients that he stated showed how “natural immunity was superior to vaccine immunity.”

“I think I’ve been very careful with every public pronouncement I’ve made,” he said. “I’ve not used any personal anecdotes because anecdotes aren’t data.”

Johns Hopkins University published a review of the Israeli study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed for publication, and cautioned that among other limitations, “Given that previously infected individuals may have had multiple infections prior to the study period, the overall applicability of the study to all populations needs more clarification.”

Borup also spoke about a study out of England stating 2% of children show complications from COVID-19, calling it “no more serious than other things children succumb to.”

“It’s important that we get back to normal,” Borup added.

The CDC, on the other hand, states its data has shown that vaccination immunity is stronger than natural immunity. A study in May and June 2021 found that “those who were unvaccinated had 2.34 times the odds of reinfection compared with those who were fully vaccinated.” The findings suggested that “among people who have had COVID-19 previously, getting fully vaccinated” provided “additional protection against reinfection.”

Further, natural immunity can only prevent reinfection: For natural immunity to develop in the first place, a person must first contract COVID-19 and risk developing serious symptoms.

Councilwoman and Vice-chair Barbara Tidwell expressed her opinion on the matter before the vote was made.

“I think that we have good information on each end of the spectrum, but … I think we’re forgetting a group of experts, and that’s the parents themselves,” she said. “They know what is best for their family and for their child. We can listen to all these reports, get all this information, but when it comes down to it, the parents of the children are the experts.”

The Concerned Coalition will continue to advocate for their children by watching COVID-19 numbers and how schools are affected. Lee-Koven said she would push for vaccine clinics and watch the CDC timeline of when vaccinations would be available for children under 12.

The coalition currently has the support of over 400 Cache County residents.

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