Arizona does not plan for widespread school closures due to coronavirus

Mar 12, 2020, 3:20 PM | Updated: 5:25 pm

(AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)...

(AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

(AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

PHOENIX  — State health officials are not recommending a widespread closure of schools across Arizona due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Even so, Alhambra Elementary School District became the first in the Valley to close all of its schools due to virus concerns, spokeswoman Linda Jeffries announced Thursday.

The school district said in a statement it didn’t have any known cases but “this decision is simply a precaution to ensure the health and well-being of all of our students and employees.”

The district will be closed indefinitely starting Monday.

“At this time, the general recommendation in Arizona is that schools remain open,” Jessica Rigler, assistant director at the state Department of Health Services, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday. “We know this disease is very, very mild in children.”

Rigler said the COVID-19 virus doesn’t affect children in the same way as older adults, who can get severe cases. Schools provide lots of other services, like free and reduced prices lunches, stability for children, and in some cases a stable adult that the child may not have at home.

Larger public health challenges are also dictating the decision, she said.

State officials are encouraging keeping schools clean, recommending frequent washing of hands and sending students and staff home if they are sick.

Several school districts are currently on spring break.

“Monitor your child’s health and keep them home from school if they’re not feeling well,” Rigler said. “Encourage them to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer frequently throughout the day.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

“The Arizona Department of Education is working closely with public health officials to ensure we are taking the right steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said in a press release.

“We will continue to ensure our school leaders and personnel are up-to-date on the latest information so we can protect the health and safety of our students and faculty.”

In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 60,000 have so far recovered.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona does not plan for widespread school closures due to coronavirus