SANDY, Utah, Sept. 3, 2021 (Gephardt Daily/Editorial) — News of the death of a Utah school girl, between the ages of 15 and 17, from COVID-19, no doubt has parents all over Utah worried that it might happen to their child. The Utah State Legislature and Gov. Cox passed the law saying mask mandates are not allowed in schools, and when I asked a school official about some Utah COVID policies, I couldn’t get a straight answer. It is clear to me that Utah schools are being forced to straddle a line between politics and the realities of the deadly coronavirus.
One worried parent is my neighbor Grace Acosta. She has an 11-year-old sixth-grade girl who attends Indian Hills Middle School in Sandy. Last Saturday, Lulu (not her real name) played all day with a friend who, four days later, tested positive for COVID-19. Grace says the two children were close together, eating and drinking, without masks. While Lulu has no fever or cough or any other symptoms of the disease, it is well-known that people can spread the disease without any symptoms. So, Grace is confused about messaging, and what to do when it comes to school.
“Should I keep my daughter home from school? Should I quarantine her?”
Grace says she called Indian Hills Middle School as soon as she found out to report her daughter’s exposure, worried that she might spread the virus to other students. Grace says the school did a rapid COVID-19 test on her daughter. “And if she tests positive, do I have to come and get her?” Grace says she asked. “The school said no. They will send her home on the bus with other kids. But if my kid had measles, mumps, pink eye, etc., they would send her home immediately. I would have to pick her up.”
The spokesperson for Canyons School District told me if a parent is concerned, attendance rules are relaxed and a parent can keep a child home. “If there are no symptoms, then parents are encouraged to send their children to school,” says Jess Haney.
That is not a direct enough answer for Grace.
Maybe this helps: Canyons School District has established a procedure such that any child can receive the rapid antigen test every Monday and Thursday at the District office, free. The results are known within about 15 minutes.
Grace’s daughter Lulu tested negative. Lulu went to school today because she likes school and had a test she couldn’t miss.
But for her mom: “I totally feel nervous,” says Grace. “It makes me scared by my child going to school. How many other kids and their families are in this state?”
I asked the Canyons School District spokesperson if the superintendent would prefer that students be required to wear masks. Jess Haney would not answer that question. Instead, he told me that if more than six children test positive for COVID-19, they ramp up their messaging encouraging the children to wear masks.
While the Canyons school system seems to be carefully structuring their answers to do what is best for the children, while not encouraging the wrath of politicians, Grace Acosta doesn’t have to worry about that. She only has to worry about the health of her children: “Stop politicizing a disease. The law [says] she goes to school contagious and all. People’s lives matter more than politics! Isn’t this crazy?”
Veteran journalist and investigative reporter Bill Gephardt is the founder/owner of Gephardt Daily.