Experts agree risk of classroom COVID-19 transmission is low

Officials of the Centers for Disease Control have advised that classroom social distancing can safely be reduced from 6-feet to 3-feet in most elementary, middle and high-school settings (Image courtesy

SALT LAKE CITY – Recent findings by University of Utah researchers confirm a recommendation from the Center for Disease Control that one aspect of coronavirus precautions for in-person teaching in public schools can be safely relaxed.

On Mar. 19, the CDC announced that social distance between students in elementary, middle and high-school classrooms could safely be reduced from 6-feet to 3-feet when everyone is masked and the community transmission level is considered to be low, moderate or substantial.

That same day, the Utah Health and Economic Recovery Project announced that a local study in both public and private schools had confirmed that the risk of COVID-19 transmission in classrooms is “very low.”

But the CDC still recommends 6-foot physical distancing between adults and children, especially in common areas and cafeterias, or in communities where the COVID-19 transmission rate is still considered to be high.

In Utah, more than 2,000 people have succumbed to the coronavirus, but the vast majority of them have been in adult or elderly age groups with complicating medical conditions.

Utah officials reported the first COVID-19 death of a child, a boy younger than 14, on Mar. 9. Of the more than 540,000 pandemic deaths in the United States, only 253 have been children.

Statewide, two more pandemic-related deaths were reported by the Utah Health Department on Sunday. Both of those victims were male. One, aged 65 to 84, was a resident of Weber County who was not hospitalized at the time of his death. The other was older than 85 and a patient in a long-term care facility in Washington County.

Those fatalities bring the statewide pandemic death toll to 2,062.

As of Sunday, state officials said that more than 1.152 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered to Utahns, including 15,236 vaccinations on Saturday.

Health officials expect the pace of vaccinations to increase, with Utahns of all ages becoming eligible to schedule immunization appointments starting Wednesday, Mar. 24.

The total number of coronavirus infections in Utah now totals 381,629, an increase of 375 cases since Saturday. That number includes 27 new cases in the Bear River Health District.

Those new cases resulted from more than 4,500 COVID-19 tests administered on Saturday, bringing the state’s 24-hour positivity rate to 8.0 percent.

There are 157 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah, which is 3 fewer than Saturday. Total hospitalizations since the beginning of the outbreak now stands at 15,283.

The 27 new cases of COVID-19 in northern Utah overnight bring the total BRHD caseload since the beginning of the pandemic to 20,479.

Health statistics from Idaho were unchanged overnight. At last report, the state had 176,803 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,939 subsequent deaths. Case counts from neighboring Idaho counties stood at 1,104 positive tests in Franklin County, 363 positives in Bear Lake County and 334 in Oneida County.

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