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Utah County leaders issue joint statement on COVID-19 efforts, no mandates

By Genelle Pugmire - | Sep 15, 2021

Isaac Hale Daily Herald

Students look for their parents at Lakeview Elementary School in Provo after school in the Provo City School District on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. (Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo)

After much debate about how to address the COVID-19 pandemic in Utah County, a wide swath of county, health, educational and legislative leaders released a joint statement Tuesday addressing the matter.

The letter reinforces the Utah County Disease Plan. What is not in the plan is any form of mandate for either facemasks or vaccinations. Basically, not much has changed in current strategies, but is just being sustained by leadership.

The plan is designed to keep children safely going to in-person school. What is new to the Utah County Disease Plan is the following:

If a school in Utah County reaches a 1% positive rate, they are encouraged to take additional steps to slow the spread of the virus by taking mitigation steps such as:

  • Canceling or rescheduling nonessential indoor activities until positive rates reduce.
  • Moving as many activities outdoors as possible.
  • Increasing sanitation and encouraging everyone to wear a mask.
  • Sending a letter home to parents or caretakers informing them that the positive rate in that school has increased and educating them on ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in their homes and communities.

At a 2% positive rate in a school, the state’s “Test to Stay” requirement would take effect.

The most updated case reports from the Utah County Health Department show Alpine School District with 84,026 students/staff and 447 cases of COVID-19; Nebo School District with 38,500 students/staff and 229 cases and Provo School District with 13,956 students/staff with 42 cases.

Some groups are already in the 1% category, according to Danielle Chapman, the Utah County Health Department spokeswoman.

“This is 1% is a proactive measure to help children stay in school and is showing a united front and that we have the same goals,” Chapman said.

She added they will continue to take new information as it comes and implement any needed changes to the plan.

“We have recently seen a dip in vaccination efforts,” Chapman said. “Our main effort is to encourage vaccinations in those 12 and older.”

Those who are immunocompromised may receive a third dose at this time, which Chapman said is different than a booster shot. The Health Department is waiting for more information, which they believe will be coming this fall, on boosters.

“Utah County’s Board of Commissioners, health department, school districts, and legislators are taking a multi-faceted, proactive approach to reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and schools,” the letter said.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on many individuals and families in our community, we as community leaders, public servants, and health professionals desire to implement a disease plan that will support individual efforts to mitigate the most disastrous effects of COVID-19 infection,” the statement continued.

In the letter, leaders commend the efforts that individuals voluntarily are taking to help protect those most vulnerable, and they mourn the loss of those individuals whose lives were taken by the virus.

Those signing the letter say they recognize the changes in the operation of businesses, schools, events and day-to-day lives over the past 18-months.

According to the statement, there have been changes made based on new information that has been received. At the same time, there is a desire to balance risks and encourage increased efforts by the public to practice safe behaviors and good hygiene.

Utah County Commissioners Bill Lee, Amelia Powers Gardner and Tom Sakievich pose for a photo after Gardner’s swearing-in ceremony at the Utah County Historic Courthouse in Provo on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
(Connor Richards, Daily Herald file photo)

“We recognize that antibodies received through infection lead to natural immunity. Vaccination and natural immunity both offer significant protection against COVID-19,” the letter said.

The joint leadership acknowledged the efforts made in the schools and government buildings in Utah County and what they have done to make these places safer. That includes:

  • Increased airflow and air circulation, as well as increased filtration and air purification.
  • Increased sanitation in all areas with a focus on high-touch surfaces.
  • Practiced social distancing when feasible and encouraged remote meetings when possible.
  • Encouraged activities be held outdoors when possible.
  • Staying home when you are not feeling well.
  • Quarantining if you have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. For those who are fully vaccinated or have had a previous COVID-19 infection, quarantining is only necessary after exposure if experiencing symptoms.
  • Recommending facemasks be worn when indoors.
  • Receiving COVID-19 vaccines for all eligible individuals at no cost and facilitating drive-thru vaccine clinics for people who cannot come to a vaccine site.
  • Healthy living and eating habits to boost the immune system and overall health, including outdoor activity, sunshine, taking vitamins, fresh air, and plenty of sleep.
  • Frequent hand washing and avoiding touching your face.

“This Utah County Disease Plan is a result of many months of research and application. As a group of community leaders, public servants, and health professionals, we understand the balance of what people have a desire to do, scientific best practices that work, and most importantly, what our community needs. We are going to continue to fight this virus together, and we are united in our plan,” the letter states.

The letter is signed by all three Utah County Commissioners, Utah County Board of Health Chairman Jeff Acerson and Utah County Health Department director Eric Edwards along four state senators and 10 state representatives from Utah County.

For those who have not been vaccinated, the Utah County Health Departmet is having a drive-through event at the Provo Towne Centre mall’s main entrance Thursday from 2-8 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Appointments can be made by visiting http://healthevent.utahcounty.gov.

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