Utah teachers union calls for return to remote learning as COVID-19 spread continues to rise

Photo illustration. | Photo by Sviatlana Lazarenka, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Utah’s largest teachers union called for the governor to move all public secondary schools in high coronavirus transmission areas to remote learning as Southern Utah and the state reported their second-worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic on Saturday.

Photo illustration. | Photo by sommersby, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

The Utah Education Association also called for 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 2,956 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, which brought the seven-day average of new daily cases to a record-breaking 2,213. In the past week, Utah’s positivity average has increased from 18.2% to 19.7%, according to state data.

Southern Utah recorded 147 new infections of the virus on Saturday, which is second only to the 200 recorded on Friday. Since Tuesday, there have been an additional 734 people locally who have received a COVID-19 diagnosis, and there are 2,029 people presently infected with the virus in Southern Utah.

Cedar High cheerleaders wearing masks, Spanish Fork at Cedar, Aug. 14, 2020 | Photo Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

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

There are presently 46 active cases in the Washington County School District.

The governor’s office said Friday the health and safety of Utah’s teachers is a “high priority” and that they would take the union’s recommendations under advisement.

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.

St. George News Weekend Editor/reporter Chris Reed contributed to this article.

Story by SOPHIA EPPOLITO, Associated Press

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

We invite you to check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Nov. 7, 2020, seven-day average in parentheses)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 7,361 (126.7 new infections per day in seven days, rising since Nov. 6)

  • Washington County: 5,951 (107.7 per day, rising)
  • Iron County: 1071 (13 per day, rising)
  • Kane County: 107 (0.4 per day, dropping)
  • Garfield County: 127 (2.7 per day, rising) 
  • Beaver County: 105 (2.7 per day, dropping) 

Deaths: 60 (0.4 per day, dropping)

  • Washington County: 49 
  • Iron County: 4 
  • Garfield County: 5
  • Kane County: 1
  • Beaver County: 1 

Hospitalized: 31 (rising)

Recovered: 5,199 

Current Utah seven-day average: 2,293 (rising)

Southern Utah counties in high transmission level as of Nov. 5 (masks required, gatherings to 10 or less): Washington (22.4% positive tests, 689.0 per 100,000 case rate), Beaver (22.2% positive tests, 410.3 per 100,000 case rate), Garfield (11.3% positive tests, 393.7 per 100,000 case rate)

Southern Utah counties in moderate transmission level (masks required, gatherings to 10 or less until Oct. 29):  Iron (12.9% positive tests, 255.8 per 100,000 case rate)

Southern Utah counties in low transmission level (masks recommended, gatherings to 50 or less): , Kane (14.9% positive tests, 320.6 per 100,000 case rate)

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