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COVID-19 variants believed to be cause of virus outbreak at local middle school



State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn says the state is starting to see more COVID-19 cases in tourist destinations and at schools.

Dunn specifically mentioned an outbreak at Elk Ridge Middle School in South Jordan, where there are at least 32 reported cases of the coronavirus as of Thursday morning, according to data from the Jordan School District. Herriman High School also has at least 32 reported cases of the virus.

The state’s “Test to Stay” protocols require that schools larger than 1,500 students COVID test a majority of their student body when more than 2% of the school population tests positive within 14 days. Because of its size, Herriman hasn’t hit that threshold — but Elk Ridge, with fewer students, has.

The district says tomorrow, which is usually a distance learning day, will be used to test Elk Ridge students for COVID-19. School officials are working with the Salt Lake County Health Department to follow “Test to Stay” protocols.

Health officials believe a variant strain of the virus is believed to be driving the Elk Ridge outbreak, said Mary Hill, an epidemiologist supervisor with the Salt Lake County Health Department. A group of 78 Elk Ridge students were recently tested for the virus, and 26 of them tested positive, Hill said.

…that’s a 33 percent attack rate — which is really high — and we didn’t see that much with the first and second wave,” Hill said. “We’re hearing about this, from the variants, across the country and the world, and we’re starting to see it here in Salt Lake.”

According to Dr. Dunn, the outbreaks state health officials are tracking appear to be driven by variant strains of the virus, and are happening in populations of people ineligible to be vaccinated. Middle school students, based on their age, fall into that category.