SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health recommends students and staff at the state's K-12 wear masks while indoors, even if they are vaccinated. It also recommends a period of quarantine following any exposure to the coronavirus while at school.
Health officials released their recommendations Monday ahead of the fall semester as the state and country deal with a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant. FOX 13 first reported last month that the state's back-to-school plan would include recommending masks and an increased reliance on testing.
Masks can't be required by health officials after the state legislature banned mandates in schools earlier this year.
UDOHs recommendations include:
- Encouraging everyone 12 years and older to get vaccinated for COVID-19
- Wearing a mask when indoors
- Isolating at home if you test positive for COVID-19
- Quarantine and other protective measures after a school exposure
- Testing for COVID-19
- Staying home when you’re sick
- Physical distancing and cohorting
- Improving or increasing indoor ventilation
- Hygiene practices
- Cleaning and disinfection
“We strongly recommend local health departments and schools use a layered prevention approach, including encouraging vaccination and mask wearing, among other strategies,” Dr. Michelle Hofmann, deputy director of UDOH, said in a statement. “Doing so can help minimize the disruptions of COVID-19 on schools while maximizing opportunities for children to participate in in-person learning and extracurricular activities.”
It is expected that quarantine recommendations will be different across the state as local health departments and education agencies use local data to determine the best way to move forward.
When it comes to quarantine policies, local health departments will determine the best approach. For example, it could involve a combination of quarantining and testing for a student who is exposed to COVID-19, or masking and testing for the virus.
While the legislature has been criticized for rolling back mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions when cases declined earlier this year, House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said policies could bend depending on circumstances.
"While Utah’s K-12 COVID-19 response plan places a high priority on minimizing disruption to students’ education, officials are still able to adapt to changing circumstances. The governor and county elected officials – in conjunction with local health departments – retain the flexibility to address new developments with the virus, including instating mask usage," he said in a statement. "It is my hope that these guidelines will help students face fewer interruptions to in-person learning and have a much more consistent educational experience than the previous two school years."