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Health, Science & Environment
Sent Away is an investigative reporting partnership between KUER, The Salt Lake Tribune and APM Reports, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Northern Utah Teen Treatment Center Reports First COVID-19 Cases

A sign with the word ‘Elevations’ sits in front of a long one-story building.
David Fuchs
/
KUER
Multiple cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among the students at Elevations RTC, a youth residential treatment center in Davis County.

Elevations RTC, a youth residential treatment center in Davis County, alerted parents to its first COVID-19 cases among students Friday.

The center received the positive confirmations on Thursday. Elevations shared the information with parents on a private site the facility uses to communicate with families. Screenshots of that message were shared with KUER.

In it, Elevations medical director Dr. Michael Connolly informed parents that multiple cases had been confirmed at the facility and asked for patience.

“Understand that we have a very complicated environment,” he said in the post. “Perfection is impossible, but we will strive to reasonably mitigate risks to the fullest extent possible.”

Connolly said that Elevations will be in consistent contact with the Utah Department of Health to monitor the situation.

The statement also laid out basic parameters for the facility’s response plan, which Connolly said had been approved by the state health department: All residents who have tested positive for the virus will be isolated, and all residents will wear masks whenever possible. Anyone with symptoms will be tested.

Elevations RTC and the Utah Department of Health did not return a request for comment in advance of publication.

One parent spoke with KUER on the condition of anonymity because they fear repercussions for their child who is a resident. They said Elevations’ communication with families has been poor throughout this incident.

The parent said the children are afraid they will catch the virus and not be able to leave the facility during the winter holidays, according to reports from their own child and comments in other online parent groups.

Utah’s Office of Licensing, the primary regulator of private youth treatment facilities in the state, confirmed Elevations residents had recently tested positive for COVID-19. It could not provide an exact number of cases, however, citing privacy concerns.

The office is a division of the Utah Department of Human Services and cannot disclose exact case counts when fewer than 20 people are sick at any one facility, said agency spokesperson Kate Croft.

Unlike schools, which have standardized criteria for when to transition to remote learning, each individual youth residential treatment facility decides its own thresholds for when to transition to online programming, Croft said.

The office does not keep a specific count of the number of cases at youth-serving programs. But so far, 1,996 clients and 1,614 staff members have tested positive for the virus across all of the programs the office licenses. Those include adult drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, assisted-living services for adults with disabilities and others.

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