In an effort to expedite notification of students and school officials about COVID-19 outbreaks, the Salt Lake County Health Department has been granted access to monthly student enrollment data for county schools. The Utah State Board of Education approved the data request and directed board staff to develop a streamlined process for other health authorities in the state to request like data.

Jeffrey Eason, manager of Salt Lake County Health’s population health and informatics bureau, said the linkage will expedite the identification and notification of students who have tested positive for COVID-19 “so we can remove them.”

That data will also be used to rapidly identify children “who are intended to be quarantined and therefore should not be at school and share that information with our school nurses. We believe this will interrupt the transmission and decrease the rates within schools,” Eason said.

The newly available data includes student names, dates of birth, gender and the school they attend in Salt Lake County. It will be shared monthly to allow health department to cross-reference lab results and enable officials to notify students and schools faster when there are positive test results.

The health department currently verifies COVID-19- positive student enrollment by contacting school nurses, but it is a time-consuming, back-and-forth process, Eason said. “We’re talking about typically two to three days for us to identify a case in the follow-up investigation. So, with people being infectious two days prior to their illness onset, unfortunately that offers quite a few different opportunities for students to go to school unidentified and potentially exposing their peers.”

The agreement between the schools and health department began Nov. 15 and runs through the end of 2021.

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