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Utah Ranks As Worst State for Teacher COVID-19 Safety By Insurance Website Analysis

Close up photo of Tami Pyfer speaking at a microphone at Thursday's press conference.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Deseret News
Tami Pyfer speaks at the COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.

Teachers in Utah have a higher risk of catching COVID-19 than educators in any other state, according to a report from Insurify, a website where people can compare insurance quotes.

The analysis noted that Utahns have above average access to healthcare and teacher unions have a strong influence, but the state’s large class sizes, low per-student funding and “below average” reopening plans are putting teachers at high risk.

Heidi Matthews, president of the Utah Education Association, said these have been issues for years.

“This is nothing new,” Matthews said. “It's all exacerbating our ability to get people into face to face learning in a safe way. So — not a surprise.”

The governor’s education adviser Tami Pyfer defended schools reopening and placed responsibility with individual districts. She said some have found ways to limit the number of kids in classrooms at one time.

“That is one of those mitigation efforts that as we see cases rise at schools, they see that trigger and they will have less students in the classroom, more students doing online learning,” Pyfer said. She added that it’s important for kids to go back to school, even if just for a few weeks, to get to know their teachers.

“Remote learning can be more successful when those students have built that foundation of knowing who their teacher is and beginning to establish that relationship,” Pyfer said.

At least two public schools scaled down or eliminated in-person learning as a result of a coronavirus outbreak.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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