Despite statewide spike, active COVID-19 cases remain stable for Iron County School District

Cedar High School, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 4, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Iron County School District has seen a total of 114 reported cases of COVID-19 since school started, 27 of which have occurred over the past two weeks.

However, the number of active cases districtwide has gone down slightly, from 33 two weeks ago to 32 this week, according to the latest figures released by the school district on Friday.

At the school board’s regular monthly meeting Nov. 24, superintendent Shannon Dulaney said there had been a total of 87 cases over the three-month period since the school year began on Aug. 25.

Of those 87 cases, 58 were students and 29 were employees, Dulaney said at the meeting. 

Friday’s updated numbers show 77 student cases to date and 37 employees. Of those 114 cases, 32 are active and the other 82 are considered recovered. 

Only seven of the cases to date — four students and three employees — can be definitively traced back to exposure at school, Dulaney said. Those numbers didn’t change over the past two weeks, which included three days off from school for Thanksgiving last week.

Iron County School District offices, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 4, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Although the district’s COVID-19 numbers are usually reported weekly, no update was issued last Friday due to the holiday.

The Iron District school with the most reported COVID-19 cases has been Cedar High School, with 31 students and three staff cases to date. Ten of those cases (nine students and one staff member) have been reported over the past two weeks. However, Cedar High has just one currently active case, with the other 33 being considered recovered.

Meanwhile, Canyon View High School has seen the second-most cases with 16 to date: 11 students and five staff. Although that updated total represents just one additional student since two weeks ago, Canyon View does have eight currently active cases listed, the most of any of the district’s 17 schools. 

Secondary students in grades 7-12 have accounted for 62 of the district’s 77 student cases to date, with the other 15 being elementary school students, the updated spreadsheet shows.

Dulaney told Cedar City News this week that students in the 15-18 age group seem to be the most susceptible.

“They’re the ones that are the ones that are getting it the most and the ones that are being exposed, and are passing it on, more so than any other age group,” Dulaney said.

“We just want to make sure that we are continuing to do all that we can with keeping the kids distanced, everyone wearing masks and increased hygiene, and that is taking place. I do believe we’re doing all we can.”

Canyon View High School, Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 18, 2020 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“We don’t want to get up to those numbers like what’s happened up north, where school ends up being closed. That is just not preferable at all. It’s not what’s best for kids and learning.”

Also of note, the number of students and staff members currently under quarantine has decreased over the past two weeks, dropping from 335 two weeks ago to 262 currently.

Those now being quarantined represent approximately one-fourth of the 1,107 total quarantined individuals the district has had to date since Aug. 25 (1,016 students and 91 employees).

Dulaney noted that a number of individuals have been quarantined more than once.

“We have a few kids that have been quarantined multiple times because of the classes that they’ve been in and the exposure that they’ve had,” Dulaney said, adding that the teachers of quarantined students have been doing “a phenomenal job with remote learning and keeping connected to students. So at least we have a system in place to mitigate that.”

The district’s quarantining protocols appear to be working, she said, giving credit to Southwest Utah Public Health Department director Dr. David Blodgett and his staff.

“I think it’s really important to note that Dr. Blodgett has been key to this whole project,” Dulaney said. “He’s using common sense, and we’ve appreciated his common sense. He’s helped us navigate through the health order from the state and apply it in a way that makes most sense. And that’s helped us keep kids in school, whereas in other areas of the state, the decision may have been different.”

Cedar High School, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 4, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Iron County School District has nearly 10,000 students and about 1,000 employees in its 17 schools. Approximately 1,700 of the district’s students are currently doing at least part of their learning online, Dulaney noted.

“The active cases are remaining stable. That is what we want to see,” Dulaney said Friday. “The number of students being quarantined is increasing. This is a result of diligent contact tracing. We are fortunate that teachers have worked diligently to prepare Canvas lessons for remote learning and that students can continue taking advantage of learning opportunities when it is necessary for them to stay home.”

Dulaney also thanked various support staff for helping school to stay in session, specifically mentioning the “critical work” being done by school counselors, social workers, psychologists and wellness room facilitators. 

As for sports and other extracurricular activities, mandatory COVID-19 testing for high schoolers participating in winter activities has already begun, with each student-athlete scheduled to be tested every 14 days. Tests will be performed at school each Monday at no cost to the students or coaches, with half the teams being done one week and half the next. 

In addition to those participating in basketball, wrestling and swimming, the testing protocols also extend to students involved in drama, cheerleading and drill team, district officials said.

In addition to mask requirements and other safety procedures already in place, fan attendance at winter sports contests is being restricted. For example, no spectators are allowed at swim meets, while basketball games and wrestling matches are being essentially limited to parents only (two family passes per participant). 

“We need to be really careful and take care of ourselves and keep making sure that people are staying home when sick,” Dulaney added.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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