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Pima County health experts advise for in-person learning delay

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PHOENIX — Pima County leaders and health experts sent a letter Tuesday to local superintendents advising that schools shouldn’t open for in-person learning on the first day possible this fall.

Leaders of the southern Arizona county advised superintendents to keep schools closed until at least Sept. 8, the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Public health officials pointed to insufficient data in support of reopening schools for learning on Aug. 17, which is when Arizona schools are allowed to begin in-person instruction.

“Could local public health data support the reopening of schools on Aug. 17 for traditional, face-to-face in-person learning? The short answer is no,” C.H. Huckleberry, Pima County administrator, wrote in the letter. “The explanation lies in the facts.”

Pima County’s COVID-19 infection rate is about 11%, more than twice the 5% recommendation from the World Health Organization for reopening schools.

County health officials also cited needing six weeks to determine whether a mask mandate introduced June 19 was working.

Hospitalization numbers and delay in testing results also were used by health officials as reasons to delay in-school learning.

“County public health agencies with real-time information and data regarding the pandemic are in the best position to offer public health advice regarding school activities related to managing the spread of COVID-19,” Huckleberry said.

Gov. Doug Ducey unveiled Thursday that a plan developed by the Arizona Department of Health Services via executive order would help provide guidance for schools looking to reopen during the pandemic.

Details of the Arizona: Open For Learning plan were to be released by Aug. 7, per Ducey’s order.

Most school districts will begin remote learning for the 2020-2021 academic year on Aug. 3.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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