covid swab

A nurse tests a nasal swab for COVID-19 in this 2020 file photo.

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Logan High School tested most of its students for COVID on Thursday in accordance with the state’s Test to Stay mandate. Then, as things turned out, the rule was suspended by state leaders later in the day due in part to concerns about the number of tests available.

In its place, Utah will allow schools to shift to remote learning for up to four days when cases cross established thresholds.

“That came through as we had just finished our Test to Stay event,” said Logan School District communications specialist Shana Longhurst, noting the district identified from 130 to 140 positive cases after conducting tests on 1,100 to 1,300 of Logan High’s 1,450 students. Exact numbers are not yet available.

The testing process was activated when the school case count hit 50 this week, exceeding the trigger point of 2% of the school’s population testing positive over a 14-day period, and Longhurst said the district was very satisfied with how the process went.

“We were able to identify positive cases that are currently in our schools and allow them the time to isolate and to get better even if they’re asymptomatic and not be contagious as much and help with the transmission in our schools, and we were grateful we were able to identify those cases,” she said.

The students who tested positive were sent home, which Longhurst said gives the district confidence it can move forward without going to remote learning in the near future.

“We don’t feel it’s necessary. Our positive cases have been identified and we feel like we tested enough students that we don’t have positive cases in our schools today,” she said.

Some Logan High School teachers feel differently about the decision to continue in-class learning. The Herald Journal learned that objections were raised to the stay-the-course plan during a meeting between teachers and administrators on Thursday afternoon.

Utah state leaders announced the Test to Stay pause and extension of limited online learning in a joint letter to school districts on Thursday. The announcement was made by Gov. Spencer Cox, State School Superintendent Sydnee Dickson, House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President J. Stuart Adams.

“Given the unique characteristics of the Omicron variant, the availability of vaccinations, and developing guidance from health authorities, it is necessary to step back from test-to-stay programs, allowing the Utah Department of Health to devote its testing resources to congregate-care facilities, long term care facilities, and community testing sites,” the letter stated.

At a news conference that followed, Wilson said the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus necessitated the change.

“Test-to-stay was really meant to be an early intervention to help reduce the spread of COVID and it worked really well for COVID 1 and 2, if you want to call it that,” he said. “But it’s not working with Omicron.”

It was also noted that test availability has become an issue.

The same caseload thresholds for Test to Stay will apply for the remote-learning option, but all districts will be allowed to make the decisions on their own. Those thresholds are 2% of the student body for schools of more than 1,500 students, and 30 cases for schools under 1,500 students. The numbers are derived from documented cases over a 14-day period.

The new provision allows up to four days of online learning, though the Utah Legislature previously prohibited public schools from going completely remote for more than one day a week.

As of Thursday afternoon, schools in the Cache County School District were reported to be below the thresholds.

District spokesman Tim Smith cautioned that daily case numbers posted on the district website do not reflect each school’s status in relation to the thresholds since those only show daily counts as opposed to 14-day incidence.

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