TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - State health officials released guidelines for Arizona school leaders to consider in safely reopening buildings for in-person learning Thursday afternoon, Aug. 6.
The state said district leaders should consider two key components in determining when it’s safe to reopen a school building:
- HOW: The quality of a school’s mitigation plan or how the school will reduce the spread among students and staff.
- WHEN: Level or spread occurring within the community.
The Arizona Department of Health Services recommends county-specific public health benchmarks fall within the moderate or minimal spread category in all three benchmarks for two weeks in order to provide hybrid learning, which would be some students in physical buildings and some students distance learning.
For initial reopening, the state health department recommends schools follow these three county-specific metrics, for determining the “when”:
- Decline in cases or less than 100 cases per 100,000 individuals for two consecutive weeks
- Two consecutive weeks with percent positivity below 7%
- Two consecutive weeks with hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses below 10%
So, where do counties in southern Arizona currently stand with statistics regarding the spread? Are school districts clear to safely reopen?
According to a COVID-19 School Benchmarks table, provided by the ADHS on Thursday, Pima, Cochise and Santa Cruz counties met two of the three benchmarks.
All three counties have reported a decline in cases, or less than 100 cases per 100,000 individuals, and hospital visits for COVID-like illness below 10% for two consecutive weeks.
However, none of the counties were below the 7% positivity rate. According to the ADHS, as of the week of July 19:
Pima County: 9.6%
Cochise County: 8.9%
Santa Cruz County: 14.4%
According to the ADHS, the dashboard does not look at the past two weeks due to potential lags in data.
You can view the ADHS county-level school benchmarks data dashboard here.
While extensive, the information released from the state health department is for guidance only and isn’t mandatory.