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State scraps 'modified quarantine' recommendation for schools

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It lasted just days, now the state has scrapped its own recommendation that would have allowed some students, teachers and employees in schools — even after being exposed to coronavirus. (Photo: KUTV)

It lasted just days, now the state has scrapped its own recommendation that would have allowed some students, teachers and employees in schools — even after being exposed to coronavirus.

“Modified quarantine” has now been replaced with two-week quarantine.

“This means that any time someone has close contact with a person with COVID-19 — that means they’ve been within six feet for 15 minutes of a confirmed case — that person should spend their entire 14-day quarantine period at home,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist.

The change comes amid back-to-school tension, not for the normal reasons, but over vexing questions over in-person vs. online vs. hybrid instruction.

“There’s not oversight for the plans,” said Heidi Matthews, a teacher and president of the 18,000-member Utah Education Association, adding among teachers, “there is so much unease and uncertainty.”

Parents have been uneasy, too, as evident by protests over back-to-school plans in Salt Lake, Utah and Davis Counties. In Orem, parents demonstrated against requiring students to wear masks in schools. In Farmington, parents called for more in-person instruction in the Davis School District.

Gov. Gary Herbert, who expressed a need to reopen schools, was reportedly frustrated at push-back to the idea.

“It’s not true,” the governor said on Thursday. “I’ve heard it’s been reported that (way) by a person who was in a meeting that evidently I was not in.” He added “we appreciate the teachers and what they’re doing.”

Matthews said tossing modified quarantine is a safety step in the right direction.

“It was UEA’s recommendation,” she said, “and it was the recommendation of about everyone involved in public education in Utah.”