The start of the fall high school sports season is upon us, and no one is quite sure how things are going to play out this year when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alpine School District officials have already announced their intention to “return with no masks and no test-to-play protocols” this upcoming school year.
In addition, the Utah High School Activities Association has not provided any updated safety measures to schools or on their website.
The Utah Department of Health “recommends a layered prevention approach consistent with the Utah COVID-19 Disease Plan and CDC school guidelines to minimize the impact of COVID-19 exposures and outbreaks in school settings and maximize opportunities for children to participate in in-school learning and extracurricular activities.”
The Department’s newly-released recommendations for “layered prevention strategies in K-12 schools” include the following:
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
Cleaning and disinfection
However, at this point, these are guidelines, not mandates. The Delta variant is producing rising case counts in Utah which may force more aggressive action in the future, but both government and school officials have expressed the hope that this will not be necessary.
In the meantime, Governor Spencer Cox and government health officials are encouraging all eligible Utahns to get their shots. There is no approved vaccine yet for children under 12.
As declared on the state’s official site on the virus, “vaccination is the best way to keep our children safe and healthy in school and free from the disruptions to their learning and extracurricular activities that we experienced last school year.”
One important change noted on the site: “Students and school staff who are fully vaccinated can continue in-person learning and participate in extracurricular activities, even if they are exposed to COVID-19.”
Further, “This means you don’t have to quarantine if it has been two weeks since your final shot, even if you are exposed to someone who tests positive.”
Also, “You do NOT need to wait 90-days after testing positive to get vaccinated. You can get vaccinated as soon as you are no longer in isolation or quarantine and don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19.”
The standard quarantine protocols in force at the end of last school year remain in place for those who aren’t vaccinated.
Guidelines for ticket sales are yet to be announced but are expected to be available before the first football games are played on August 13.