Doctor: Schools ignoring benchmarks may trigger another COVID-19 spike

Aug 10, 2020, 4:35 AM

PHOENIX — A pediatric infectious disease specialist encourages Arizona school districts to meet all the health benchmarks recommended by state health officials before bringing students back on campus.

“A school district that ignores the benchmarks and decides to open regardless, they have to be prepared to accept that they may be triggering a third surge,” said Dr. Sean Elliot, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and a professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “There’s a social responsibility here, and I would hope they’re considering that.”

For schools that decide to reopen despite not meeting all the benchmarks, Elliot said he hopes they’re “being quite robust in their preparation efforts.” That includes increasing ventilation in buildings, limiting school activities and reducing class sizes.

He said the health benchmarks released last week by the state’s health department are meant to guide schools on when “it may be appropriate to reopen for in-person learning.”

State health officials recommend three benchmarks be reached in the county where the schools are located.

Those benchmarks are a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 7% or less for two consecutive weeks, a two-week decline in the number of new cases and less than 10% of hospital visits related to the coronavirus.

None of the state’s counties meet all of those benchmarks, which Elliott said are not as “conservative” as in other states.

He noted that while state health officials are recommending a 7% positivity rate for COVID-19 tests before schools can reopen, other states are recommending 5%. New York City is using 3% as its benchmark.

Similarly, other states are setting a 5% benchmark for hospital visits related to COVID-19 illnesses while Arizona health officials are recommending 10%.

“The real key, though, is a steady decrease in the number of new cases for at least two seven-day periods,” Elliott said. “This means it becomes safer and safer as we do a better and better job of limiting our spread of disease in Arizona.”

He added it’s important to keep in mind that the benchmarks are recommendations and are not mandatory. The final decision on when to reopen will be up to school district leaders with consultation from their county health departments.

“I’m hoping that they’re thoroughly intending to abide by those benchmarks,” he said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(KTAR News Photo)...

Bullet hits Arizona DPS trooper vehicle in El Mirage

Authorities said someone shot at an Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper vehicle in metro Phoenix late Wednesday.
9 hours ago
(Chompie's Photo)...
Kevin Stone

Chompie’s deli set to open its largest restaurant near site of original Phoenix location

Chompie's is set to open its fifth, and largest, restaurant next week about a mile from where its original Phoenix location debuted in 1979.
9 hours ago
(Facebook photo/SOHO Scottsdale)...

Asian-American fusion concept Buddha’s Ritual to debut in Scottsdale

The couple behind two Valley restaurants is set to debut a new Asian-American fusion concept in Scottsdale later this fall.
9 hours ago
(Facebook photo/Lowell Observatory)...

Flagstaff Lowell Observatory to reopen general admission next month

Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff is set to reopen for general admission on Nov. 15 after a 20-month period where the facility was either closed or offered limited programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
9 hours ago
(Pixabay photo)...

Phoenix man sentenced to 30 months in prison for possession of meth, intent to distribute

A Phoenix man has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, authorities said Wednesday.
9 hours ago
Kandy Ho, left, and Mýa have joined the lineup for the 2021 Phoenix Pride Festival at Steel Indian...

Upcoming Phoenix Pride Festival adds Grammy winner to lineup

The upcoming Phoenix Pride Festival has replaced one of its featured performers with a Grammy Award winner, with Mýa joining the lineup.
9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Schwartz Laser Eye Center

How to sharpen your vision with elective procedures

Imagine opening your eyes in the morning and being able to see clearly. You wouldn’t have to wait to put on glasses or contacts, and there would be no more blurry showers nor forgetting where your glasses are.
PNC Bank

How one organization supports early childhood literacy for the most vulnerable

Nearly two out of every three children in low-income communities don’t own a single children’s book, a fact that ultimately could have profound impacts even before entering kindergarten, according to Arizona nonprofit Southwest Human Development.

More stroke patients eligible for acute treatment, thanks to research

Historically, patients underwent acute stroke treatments according to strict time guidelines. But thanks to recent advancements in stroke research, more patients are becoming candidates for clot-busting drugs and endovascular therapy at specialized centers like Barrow Neurological Institute.
Doctor: Schools ignoring benchmarks may trigger another COVID-19 spike