CACHE COUNTY – The members of the Cache County Council have voted to allow a controversial “test-to-stay” program in local elementary schools to lapse in late October.
That vote on the order of constraint issued by the Bear River Health Department in mid-September came by a six-to-one margin after considerable discussion during a regular meeting of the county council on Tuesday.
During that debate, BRHD director Jordan Mathis acknowledged that COVID-19 inflection rates for elementary school children are declining locally and that the severity of those cases has not been very high.
Given those circumstances, the majority of council members agreed that the BRHD order of constraint should be allowed to expire. The sole dissenting vote was that of council vice-chair Barbara Tidwell, who expressed the opinion that parents should be allowed to decide what is best for their children.
Since COVID-19 vaccines are currently not available for children under the age of 12, public health officials have been increasingly focusing their attention in recent weeks on elementary schools in the midst of the current resurgence of infection rates.
The BRHD order of constraint allowed Cache County elementary schools to implement a classroom-level test-to-stay program for any classroom that has three or more students, faculty or volunteers who test positive for COVID-19 within a seven-day period.
In that case, everyone associated with that classroom would be tested for coronavirus infection. Individuals testing positive would shift to remote learning instruction while those testing negative would continue to attend school in person.
Even after the local order of constraint expires on Oct. 20, however, Cache County elementary schools will still be subject to state-level test-to-stay programs.
Laws adopted during the 2021 legislative session require that a test-to-stay protocol be implemented when a school with a minimum of 1,500 students has 2% of its population test positive for COVID-19 tests within 14 days.
The state-mandated test-to-stay program differs from that established by the BRHD order of constraint in that the school’s entire population must be tested once the aforementioned inflection threshold is crossed.
That same testing procedure must be implemented when a school with fewer than 1,500 students has at least 30 students test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days.
Under state law, a local health department must provide county officials with 24-hour notice of its intent to issue a health-related order of constraint.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Mathis told members of the county council that he has no plans to re-issue the BRHD order after the current one expires on Oct. 20.