As schools reopen, Utah governor urges virus vigilance
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — While Utah’s coronavirus case counts have declined, Gov. Gary Herbert urged people Thursday to keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing — especially as school reopen.
Herbert said schools will need to be flexible as they navigate the challenges that come with reopening during a pandemic. He said there’s no way to ensure a “zero risk” scenario, but said every school district has a plan in case an outbreak occurs.
Herbert also emphasized the importance for all teachers, students and staff to comply with the the statewide mask mandate as schools reopen. He said the mask order allows people to wear face shields, but they should be worn with masks except for special circumstances such as when working with children who need to read lips.
The Washington County School District, which serves nearly 33,000 students, opened for the first day of classes Thursday. It wasn’t immediately known how many attended in person.
Last week, the Republican governor urged Utah residents to keep social distancing and wearing face coverings to reach a goal of 400 confirmed cases a day by Sept. 1. The state surpassed that goal days later and — as of Thursday — had a weekly average of 354 cases per day.
“The case numbers are falling, and our transmission rates are going down,” Herbert told reporters Thursday. “So I think we’re in a good place, but I would emphasize it’s no time for us to be complacent. If anything, we probably need to increase our efforts.”
More than 45,000 cases of the virus have been reported in Utah, and 353 people have died, according to state data. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness and death.
Sophia Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.