Another Salt Lake County high school closes for ‘deep cleaning' after surpassing 15 COVID-19 cases; 2 Canyons district high schools go to online classes for 14 days

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A West Jordan high school is suspending classes on Tuesday after health officials Monday confirmed more than 15 coronavirus cases at the school.

Copper Hills High School was to undergo a “deep cleaning and thorough disinfecting” on Tuesday after health officials identified 16 cases among students or employees at the school, Jordan School District officials posted Monday on the school’s website and Facebook page.

“More information regarding any further potential changes to Copper Hills High School schedule will be forthcoming,” school officials wrote.

The Jordan School District school board met late into the night Tuesday, debating a decision.

Since fall term began, it is the second school in the district to close temporarily due to coronavirus outbreaks, and the sixth school in the county to exceed 15 coronavirus cases within any two-week period — the threshold at which state health officials recommend that schools close for two weeks.

But only two of the six schools have followed that guidance — a Draper charter school and the Canyons School District’s Corner Canyon High School in Draper, where a teacher has been hospitalized and 90 cases were reported as of Monday. There were 600 Corner Canyon students and employees under quarantine orders as of Monday, according to data from the district.

Draper’s rate of new cases was far exceeding the rates in other Salt Lake County communities as of Monday. In the past two weeks, there were 593 new cases in the city per 100,000 residents, more than double the countywide rate of 283 cases per 100,000 people.

Another Jordan District high school, Riverton High School, closed two days for cleaning last week after it surpassed 15 active cases. The school reopened this week despite exceeding 15 cases, Salt Lake County health officials reported; county data shows only whether a school is above or below 15 cases.

The number of coronavirus cases in the Jordan School District rose from 148 on Monday to 175 on Tuesday, according to Salt Lake County health data.

Meanwhile, two Canyons district high schools that remained open for classes despite exceeding 15 cases announced they would transition to online learning for 14 days starting Thursday. Brighton High School reported 23 cases, and Alta High School reported 20 as of Monday.

The number of COVID cases in the Canyons School District rose from 194 on Monday to 223 on Tuesday, according to county reports.

The Canyons School District said students would not attend classes Wednesday to give faculty and staff a day to prepare to teach virtual classes. Parents were notified of the change via robocall, email and text.

The decision to pause in-person learning was made after a “sustained increase in COVID-19 cases” and was “determined to be in the best interest of students, families and staff,” the district said in a news release.

In Utah County, Timpanogos High School shifted this week to a “hybrid” schedule of online and in-person classes after an increase in cases there. The Alpine School District has not disclosed the number of cases among students and employees at that school, but reported on Monday that 97 students and 40 employees throughout the district — Utah’s largest public school district — had been diagnosed within the past two weeks.

In August, not long after classes began, Pleasant Grove High School also moved to a hybrid schedule for two weeks after a cluster of cases broke out in the Alpine District school.

Tuesday marked the largest single-day jump in school-related cases since the beginning of the pandemic. In the past day, there were 58 new cases and four new outbreaks in schools, with 70 outbreaks and 519 cases since public schools began opening for fall term on Aug. 13.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 564 patients infected in 81 school outbreaks, with a median age of 16. Twelve of those patients have been hospitalized; none has died.

As Utah experiences an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases, Utah’s teachers union has called on Gov. Gary Herbert to enforce state recommendations to close schools with 15 active cases. Other elected officials have asked him to impose a statewide mask mandate. As of Tuesday morning, only a handful of local governments in Utah had implemented mask orders, and statewide mask requirements were in place only at government buildings and in schools.

Herbert said Tuesday he would not require masks anywhere else, but he will shift Provo and Orem cities to back to “orange," or moderate, restriction levels Wednesday night due to outbreaks there. The cities now are at a low restriction level.

A New York Times analysis of the prevalence and spread of coronavirus in each state ranked Utah’s outbreak as the seventh worst in the nation as of Tuesday morning. The state was averaging 847 new cases per day as of Monday — Utah’s highest weeklong average since the beginning of the pandemic.

Tribune reporters Courtney Tanner and Taylor Stevens contributed to this story.