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It didn’t seem to matter what the teen treatment center did wrong. The state of Utah always gave it another chance.Sent Away is an investigative reporting podcast made in partnership with KUER, The Salt Lake Tribune and APM Reports, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Subscribe now on Apple or Spotify.

COVID-19 Case Count Grows At Davis County Youth Residential Treatment Facility

 A parking lot sits in front of a long-term care facility. A sign out front reads “Elevations.”
David Fuchs
Ten residents of Elevations RTC, a youth residential treatment center in Northern Utah, have tested positive for COVID-19 since Thanksgiving.

There have now been 10 cases of COVID-19 at Elevations RTC, a spokesperson for the youth residential treatment facility confirmed Friday. That number comes roughly two weeks after the Northern Utah treatment center reported its first cases of the virus soon after Thanksgiving.

Elevations is licensed by the state to house up to 90 teenage students, who are divided into self-contained teams. With one exception, all cases have been confined to the “Denali” team, and the one case in a different group is no longer considered active, said Elevations spokesperson Wendy D’Allesandro.

D'Alessandro added most residents who have tested positive are either asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms. All are under constant supervision from the nursing staff.

“They’re doing what they have to do to keep [the residents] comfortable and get them through it,” she said. “No one likes to be in quarantine.”

No student who has tested positive or is currently quarantining will be permitted to leave the facility during the holidays, she said, adding that all students returning from a home visit will be required to quarantine per CDC and state guidelines.

Elevations and the Davis County Health Department have been working in direct communication throughout the outbreak, said health department spokesperson Trevor Warner.

Warner said the county health department has supplied the facility with personal protective equipment and COVID-19 rapids tests and helped secure an additional 200 rapid tests through a partnership with the state’s infection prevention team.

Warner said he was not surprised to see the virus spread quickly within the close living quarters of a youth residential treatment setting.

“As we’ve seen with COVID, it spreads like wildfire when one person has it,” he said.

When asked whether the health department considers Elevations to be more like a school or a long-term care facility, Warner said they treat it like a worksite.

“They still have an operation to run,” he said. “That’s why they’re paired up now with our worksite outbreak team: to try to keep them operating, isolate the positive cases and still allow them to serve the important role that they do for our community.”

But at the beginning of the outbreak, parents expressed frustration that the virus had entered the facility in the first place, sharing with KUER that students feared Elevations would not be able to prevent the spread of the virus once inside.

David is a reporter and producer working on Sent Away, an investigative podcast series from KUER, The Salt Lake Tribune and APM Reports.
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