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New quarantine rules take effect for Utah schools after winter break

Posted at 9:52 PM, Jan 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-03 23:52:35-05

SALT LAKE CITY — On Monday, new COVID-19 quarantine guidelines will be implemented for exposures in Utah schools.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced the changes at a news conference in December.

“If a person is in close contact with someone who tests positive [for COVID-19] and both people are wearing masks, no longer does the one in close contact have to be quarantined. They will be allowed to stay in school,” he said.

READ: Utah's COVID-19 positive testing rate nears 30% as total deaths reach over 1,300

If one of the people is not wearing a mask, the normal quarantine guidelines will apply.

Schools are a less risky place for COVID-19, Gov. Herbert said, and the new guidelines will help lessen disruption in schools.

“If both people are wearing a mask, that qualifies as a low-risk exposure. That is what the data shows,” he said.

READ: Teachers ‘surprised, excited’ to learn they will be among first Utahns to be vaccinated

The new guidelines are concerning to both staff and students, junior high teacher Jennifer Baker, said.

“I am concerned about my students being exposed, I am concerned about them bringing it home to their families,” she said.

Just a few days before Thanksgiving, Baker’s brother ended up in the ICU due to COVID-19. Nearly a month later, he is out of ICU but still fighting, Baker said.

“He is still in a rehab center. He’s got permanent damage to his heart and his lungs,” she said.

READ: Teacher COVID-19 vaccine rollouts delayed for some Utah school districts

While waiting to be vaccinated, and seeing her brother’s battle with COVID, Baker is worried about what could come next.

“It is scary as a staff member to know that it is going to be at least two months before we are protected, and it’s scary to me as a teacher that my students and their families will be exposed for far longer,” she said.

It has been difficult managing the pandemic while working as a teacher, Baker admits. She is hopeful the Davis School District, where she works, and other districts will move to a hybrid schedule to help lessen the exposure and number of students in a classroom at once.

“We have huge class sizes, and that is an enormous problem because we can’t distance the kids like we would like to. They say six feet — I can’t distance my students six inches in many cases,” she said.

While many have been supportive of Utah teachers on the front lines during the pandemic, some have not been so kind, Baker said.

“I think parents understand for the most part, but I hope the general public understands that we are really working hard and putting our lives on the line to try and give our best to students,” she said.

For more information on COVID-19 in Utah schools, click here.