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20 Minutes with Andrew Caplan, Park City School board candidate

On Thursday, I had the chance to speak with Andrew Caplan and Thomas Cooke, who are competing for Park City School Board District #2. If you are in District #2, you can either vote for either candidate. If you don’t know if you are in District #2, here is a map.

This is the discussion with Andrew. It was highly informative and I learned a lot. Hopefully, you’ll find it engaging as well.

Most of the questions were sourced from Park Rag readers. Thank you! I tried to keep the discussion close to twenty minutes (although this went over thirty), so I was only able to get to a handful of the 50 questions people had. However, I think we had a good discussion that touched on the essence of many readers’ questions.

Please note, I debated whether to enable comments on this and Thomas’s discussion. Politics is nasty in general. Likewise, we are starting to get people personally attacking others on the Park Rag. That’s not what I want here.

So, please add to the conversation and the discussion. Please praise and attack ideas and not people. It’s hard to run for public office and we don’t need to frighten the best people away from upcoming elections. As usual, I will moderate the comments to make sure they add to the discussion and deal with ideas and not people.

We’re all in this together. On to Park City School Board President Andrew Caplan…

20 Minutes with Thomas Cooke, Park City School board candidate

On Thursday, I had the chance to speak with Thomas Cooke and Andrew Caplan, who are competing for Park City School Board District #2. If you are in District #2, you can either vote for either candidate. If you don’t know if you are in District #2, here is a map.

This is the discussion with Thomas. He is running as a write-in candidate – which long time readers will know that I have a fondness for. Thomas covers topics from how his Planning Commission time will help him on the school board to him raising questions about transparency.

Most of the questions were sourced from Park Rag readers. Thank you! I tried to keep the discussion close to twenty minutes (although this one went 32 minutes), so I was only able to get to a handful of the 50 questions people had. Please know that the Zoom Gods did not favor Thomas and me on Thursday morning. Some of the video is a little choppy (another downside of living in a COVID world), but the audio is great, so you won’t miss a thing.

Please note, I debated whether to enable comments on this and Andrew’s discussion. Politics is nasty in general. Likewise, we are starting to get people personally attacking others on the Park Rag. That’s not what I want here.

So, please add to the conversation and the discussion. Please praise and attack ideas and not people. It’s hard to run for public office and we don’t need to frighten the best people away from upcoming elections. As usual, I will moderate the comments to make sure they add to the discussion and deal with ideas and not people.

We’re all in this together. On to write in candidate Thomas Cooke…

Park City School District needs to provide Covid-19 numbers daily

I’ve generally felt that the Park City School District (PCSD) has done the best job they can of managing back-to-school in a Corona world. There are a lot of moving parts, people, directives, orders, and government organizations that are all interacting to dictate the path forward in our schools. It’s not perfect, but there has not been one day where I worried about sending my kids to elementary school.

Part of that is that the PCSD was providing daily updates on cases at each of our schools. As a parent, it gives you a feel for how it is going. Unfortunately, yesterday that stopped. It appears they have reverted to updating cases weekly. So, the next update comes this Friday.

That change comes at a bad time. Summit County Covid-19 numbers are jumping. We used to have a case or two per day — sometimes five. Now it seems we are way up. Eighteen yesterday. Twenty the day before. Ten the day before that. The trend ain’t our friend.

I only imagine that as we head into winter it will only become worse.

Not having daily numbers from the school district causes a few problems. First, parents have a right to know. I was talking with a friend last night about the change and his point was, “I need to know the situation so I can make the best decisions for my family.” Imagine that you are living in a multi-generational household, with children, parents, grandparents, etc. It would be helpful to know the risk at your child’s school. You could make a decision to keep your child in-person or shift them to the remote option to protect the grandparents and great-grandparents.

Second, in an absence of information, rumors flourish. For instance, I have heard members of local sports teams are going remote, so they aren’t subject to quarantine rules, so players can play. I’ve heard that the dates associated with the student being eligible for coming back to school have been “hidden” to mask the actual numbers so the school can remain in-person. Almost weekly, one of my kid reports on the number of children who aren’t in their class and say “they probably have Corona Virus.”

Is any of that true? I don’t know. However, I do know that in the absence of order there is disorder.

It’s not a failure if we need to go remote for a period. It is what it is. We are in a pandemic.

PCSD, do what you do. You teach. Teach the kids. Teach the parents. Provide information. It will be far better off from a public perspective if we inch up to 15 cases at a school, publish the stats, and we eventually close, versus coming out of the left field. If we are inching that way, then parents know they need to adjust work schedules for the inevitable. If you tell the parents the day before, then it severely impacts the community. What about their jobs? How does the family cope? The school district will be negatively impacting families.

PCSD, please publish the data you get daily, and then we are all in the same boat. We can figure it out together. I know many people who have come here recently don’t believe it, but this is still a small town that often waves to each other, smiles, and is friendly.

Of course, some people will complain. They always do. But the school district needs to do the right thing.

By publishing daily information on Covid-19 cases by school, parents, teachers, and other administrators can make decisions.

Park City School District, if you doubt that daily numbers are best, just imagine that during some random evening in November you get a call from the Summit County Health Department saying you are closed down. Imagine the backlash you are going to get with providing teachers and parents with 8 hours of notice that a school is remote. Imagine the impact to teachers trying to figure out what they will do remotely, tomorrow. Imagine the impact to families. It will be a sh*t show that takes away many days from education.

Instead, imagine that daily numbers are provided and people can prepare for the event as we near it. They see we are approaching the 15 student threshold and plan for the inevitable. It won’t be perfect but it is literally the best we can do.

In the long-run, being open and honest, will work out better for everyone.

Do you have a question for the Park City School Board Candidates?

There is one contested race for the Park City School Board. Write-in candidate Thomas Cooke is challenging incumbent Andrew Caplan for seat #2.

Both Thomas and Andrew have agreed to do casual video interviews via the Park Rag. My goal is to provide voters with as much information as possible to make informed decisions.

The School Board is one of the most neglected positions in local government. Most people just don’t seem to care. Yet, if you have children in the district, this may be one of the most important decisions you can make. If you don’t, get out your property tax statement, you’ll see that the Park City School District is where a lot of your money goes.

With that in mind, I’d love to hear the general themes and questions you’d like me to ask the candidates. I don’t promise to ask every question. Likewise, any questions you submit in the comments below should be respectful. Tough questions are OK, but treat Andrew and Thomas like you would want to be treated. It is not easy to run for local office and/or serve the community. We need to appreciate those that do.

So, if you have a question, please post it in the comments below by Wednesday night. We can all make a difference if we work together.

Should Park City school quarantines be shortened?

Today I received an email from the Park City School District asking whether quarantines should be shortened. Currently, if your kid (or a teacher) is in close proximity to a person who has tested positive for Covid-19, then they can’t return to school for 14 days. According to the school district, there are about 200 students at PCHS who are in quarantine.

According to the email from the district, “The Summit County Health Department (SCHD) has stated, at this time, it is appropriate for school districts in Summit County to consider moving to a shortened quarantine if COVID-19 cases are not prevalent or increasing in the district.” So, likely due to pressure from parents, the district is asking whether the public wants the quarantine shortened.

To me, this question seems political in nature. If Rich Bullough at the Sumit County Health Department says its Ok, then do it. If not, then don’t. Trust the science. Put it on the Summit County Health Department to stake their reputation on it. Don’t send a survey.

But, since the school district seems to want to go down the Survey Monkey route, I’ll go there. Let’s think about whether we should allow students to return to school, after seven days, if they take a Covid-19 test, and it is negative.

I get it. Imagine your kid’s been in contact with someone who tested positive for the CoronaVirus, your child shows no symptoms, and she has to stay home. It has to be frustrating.

The district is proposing that if after 7 days, your quarantined-kid tests negative for the virus, then they can come back to school. At face value, it makes sense to me. They tested negative, so why not let them back in. Trust me, I would be preaching from that hymnal if/when my kid comes down with this. However, there are three problems, no matter how much I want to want this.

  1. The CDC still says that it can take up to 14 days for the virus to be detectable. I tried to find research that says if someone was infected, you were in close proximity to them, and then you tested negative after 7 days, everything was fine. I couldn’t. If you, the intrepid Park Rag reader, can point me to a study saying 7 days is cool, then that may make me think this is an OK idea.
  2. Summit County still requires a quarantine of 14 days across the board. I have not seen a rule change on this. Therefore, if you work in a restaurant, and are in the same predicament, why should a kid be able to go to school and you can’t go to work. It doesn’t make sense. It needs to be aligned. It needs to be concrete. If a student can go back after seven days, everyone can go back after seven days (with the appropriate test).
  3. I, as a middle-class Parkite, whose wife works in the medical industry, will be able to get this “7-day” test through insurance or we’ll be able to afford it. Can everyone? If someone is not as fortunate as me, is the health department (or school district) guaranteeing a free test for re-admittance to school? If not, is it fair that kids with more money can go back to school and the less fortunate can’t? No, it is not. It has to be equitable.

Fourteen days is a long time off of school. That not only hurts the student but also his or her family that may have to take off work to take care of them. So, an approach that shortens that time makes sense. However, that approach needs to be universal to everyone in our community (not just students). It needs to be backed by scientific research saying that a test after seven days guarantees the student doesn’t have the virus. It also needs to be available for free to all students and all individuals who work in our community.

Perhaps, all of those things are in place and the research backs this up. Great. Let’s go for it.

If not, this idea is a non-starter.

If you want to participate, here is a link to the survey. If you received the survey via email, keep in mind that the link they sent you has an email tracker in it. So, while I’m not certain of it, it is likely someone at the district would know how you voted. So, be careful out there. The link above has that removed and therefore, the vote won’t be associated with your email address.

Park City School District Covid-19 numbers are no longer available from the district

Update: It looks like as of 10:50 AM the numbers are back online.

We heard from the Superintendent’s office that they were editing the spreadsheet for a couple of hours and that can take it offline.

Thanks, PCSD for getting this back up and running. Many people in our community find this information extremely useful.


A number of people seem to be coming to the Park Rag for our easy to access PCSD Covid numbers. Unfortunately this morning the Google Docs Spreadsheet that we link to is no longer accessible.

We’ve reached out to the district to understand whether this is intentional or whether they may be updating their systems. It could be because the state is now reporting them. That would be unfortunate because the state’s numbers are incorrect. The state reports less than 5 active cases and we know from yesterday’s number (13 total on PCSD website versus <5 on the state’s).

We’ll update when/if we hear back from the Superintendent’s office.

Vail season pass sales volume is up 18%. What time will I have to get to the PCMR lot by?

Today, Vail announced its quarterly earnings. They did worse than expected. So, if you own the stock, you aren’t happy right now.

However, if you are a Parkite with an Epic pass, you may be even unhappier. Season pass sales, by the number of passes, was UP 18% over last year through September 18th. By straight dollars, sales were down 4%. However, if you account for the credits from last year, sales were up 24%.

So, 18% more passes were sold. Maybe those purchases were by people in Colorado. Maybe Vail’s slope in Kansas City has become a hot commodity. They don’t announce sales by region, so we don’t know the regions driving the sales. However, my bet is a healthy number of those sales were in Utah. If the levels seen on our trails this summer are any indication, it’s likely people are itching to hit the slopes come December.

Well, an old adage is “if it’s good for Vail, it’s good for Park City.” Or at least I imagine someone has said that. We’ll see.

I’ll look forward to seeing you at the PCMR parking lot at 7:30 AM — so we both can vie for the last spot.

Park City poop says we are doing OK with Covid-19

That may be the strangest headline we’ve written at the Park Rag.

A friend suggested we check out the Utah Department of Environmental Quality website. They monitor “observed infection rates in each corresponding sewershed” or put differently they look for Coronavirus in poop.

Why this matters is that if a person has the Coronavirus, it will show up in his or her sewage. It doesn’t depend on a person showing symptoms or getting tested. It is a more complete picture, since, as the children’s book says, “Everyone Poops.”

The website is available here. If interested, you’ll want to click on the East Canyon or Silver Creek icons on the map. Historically, the amount of gene copies per person, per day, in the sewage seems to correlate with upcoming COVID counts.

If you live in the Basin, outside of Park City proper, you are generally covered by the East Canyon Treatment facility. The top graph below shows the amount of corona gene copies in sewage. The bottom graph shows the number of positive tests per hundred thousand in the area. The top graph of Covid-19 in sewage generally correlates with cases starting in May. The take away from this is that you are looking for spikes in sewage that have not been shown in the lower graph. This indicates more people are infected than currently acknowledged.

Right now, in Summit county we are generally seeing less than ten new COVID cases per day — and often only a handful. Per the sewage monitoring, we sit at about 4 MGC per hundred thousand people. That’s nowhere near the 77 MGC that accompanied our last spike. So, if you are a healthcare worker or teacher wondering what’s hiding beneath your patient or student’s mask, there’s little COVID as of now — at least according to the poop.

We’ll continue to follow this and see if we can find a way to post it along with School COVID counts automatically. If we see a spike, we’ll let you know.

Division of Environmental Quality

A better way to find Park City School District Covid Numbers

The good news is that the Park City School District is publishing the number of students in schools with Covid-19. The bad news is that it is almost impossible to find.

We’ve tried to help people on Next Door and Facebook find the numbers but it isn’t easy. You have to navigate to the district web page, find a link, find another link, go into a PDF, then enter Google Docs.

So, we’ve found an easy way to post them here on the Park Rag. If you are on a laptop/desktop, you can click here:

On a mobile phone, click the “pancake” menu in the upper right and then click on the menu item “Park City School District Covid Numbers.”

We can’t control the content, but hopefully it’s an easier way to find information. It appears the school district updates the info on Friday.

You can click on the menu above or here for this week’s numbers.

Update: The School District’s spreadsheet was updated again today (9/21). Looks like the two previous COVID-cases have dropped off (the date where they can return to school passed). There appears to be another case (likely the third case in our schools) that was reported today at PCHS.

Today’s Kimball Junction car gathering likely spread Covid further into Summit County

People don’t give a crap. That should worry you for this year’s Park City Winter. Today, this was shown by the hundreds of car enthusiasts who gathered, mostly unmasked, in the Visitor Center Parking Lot in Kimball Junction.

As they stood in groups and then moved from car to car, you could see the virus spreading with them. Keep in mind that it is illegal to gather in groups of 50 or more. There were clearly at least two or three times this number at this gathering.

The only positive for Summit County residents is that most of these people were probably from the valley. You know, the same places that have accounted for about 2,100 new coronavirus cases over the past three days. So, hopefully, they came, some probably got infected, and they left.

God help us if they spent time or money at any business here. Sorry Hugo Coffee, you were probably too close to avoid the infected masses.

Outside of today’s impacts, it just bodes horribly for the winter. While car enthusiasts are passionate, they are few. Skiers and boarders from the valley are both passionate and plentiful. If the state reports more Covid-19 cases than New York City during a two-day stretch, and people are still willing to gather in the numbers seen this morning, I wonder what stupidity the ski season will bring.

Some may say we need to levy a fine on the owner of the parking lot where this event occurred. The owner, in this case, would be Summit County. That’s funny. However, the county should pass an emergency ordinance stopping car events in any lots that it owns — punishable by fines. If they don’t, they are complicit going forward — and that’s not the way our Health Department and government have operated since this began. You wish it wouldn’t have to be this way because previous car events seemed like people were having fun. Those were different times, though.

I really can’t believe that a few hundred people would want to gather in close proximity to others, given recent events — even if it was outside. Then again, I’ve never understood the thought process of a lot of people.

So far, since March, we have done pretty well against the coronavirus in Summit County. Except for the lodge party, our daily coronavirus counts are typically in the low, single digits. That’s likely not true for long.

Winter is coming.