Utah teachers call for remote learning as virus cases surge

Janaye Stetson takes a COVID-19 saliva test at the University of Utah Farmington Health Center Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Farmington, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s largest teachers union called for the governor to move all public secondary schools in high coronavirus transmission areas to remote learning on Friday as the state reported a single-day record of 17 COVID-19 deaths.

Salt Lake County Health Department public health nurse Lee Cherie Booth performs a coronavirus test outside the Salt Lake County Health Department Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Salt Lake City. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said he is feeling “frustrated” with the state’s rising coronavirus numbers as new cases and hospitalizations continued a streak of new record highs on Thursday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Utah Education Association also called for Republican Gov. Gary Herbert to suspend all extracurricular activities that can’t comply with social distancing guidelines in high transmission areas from the Thanksgiving holiday throughout winter break.

“We are now seeing multiple schools repeatedly shift back and forth from in-person to at-home learning due to outbreaks,” the union wrote in a statement. “This cycle is obviously not helping to control the virus spread and, as educators, we can unequivocally state the continual interruptions are not in the best interest of student learning.”

The state recorded 2,987 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, which brought the seven-day average of new daily cases to a record-breaking 2,033. In the past week, Utah’s positivity average has increased from 18.2% to 19.7%, according to state data.

Hospitalizations also rose to a record 395 COVID-19 patients. The new fatalities bring the state’s total deaths from COVID-19 to 649.

There have been 7,615 school-associated COVID-19 cases in Utah since this school year stated, according to state data. Of those, 1,776 cases were in the past two weeks.

Herbert has said he’s concerned that people are feeling fatigued from the pandemic and urged Utah residents to follow masking and social distancing requirements. He plans to announce additional policies to address the surge in the coming days.

“The numbers being reported today are exactly what we’ve been warning Utah residents about for weeks,” Herbert said in a statement Friday. “They are why we’ve implored Utahns to adopt the behaviors that could have prevented us from reaching this point.”

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, including pneumonia, and death.

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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.

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