Dr. Cara Christ foresees online, hybrid classes for ‘quite a while’

Aug 6, 2020, 7:46 AM | Updated: 11:00 am

PHOENIX – Arizona’s top public health official said this week she sees online and hybrid learning continuing to be part of school life during the coronavirus outbreak.

Director of the state’s Department of Health Services Dr. Cara Christ also said during an online meeting of the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday she believed in-person learning was “still a couple of weeks off” because there remained “widespread transmission of COVID in most communities.

“Even if we get down below 5% [positivity rate] minimal for community transmission … I think we’re going to see that flexibility of virtual and hybrid learning quite a while into the future,” Christ told a panel of experts.

Arizona school districts are awaiting guidelines from state health and education leaders on returning to in-person learning. The metrics were expected to be released Thursday afternoon.

Gov. Doug Ducey has ordered the requirements to be released by Friday.

Christ said her department would be adding county-specific dashboards related to the benchmarks so schools can see how widespread COVID is in their community.

Schools working with their local public health departments will know “specific circumstances going on in that community that may play a role in some of those metrics,” she said.

Christ said on KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Tuesday metrics for in-class returns would include community spread, the number of cases and impact on the health care system.

Ducey signed an executive order delaying in-class learning until Aug. 17 at the earliest.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman has said she didn’t believe schools will be ready by then.

Maricopa County Public Health Executive Director Marcy Flanagan said Wednesday, “What’s important to us is to look at metrics that we identify and benchmarks in our community, and whether we’re meeting those benchmarks.”

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Dr. Cara Christ foresees online, hybrid classes for ‘quite a while’