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Arizona benchmarks unchanged, but potential COVID-19 hot spots flare up

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – All 15 of Arizona’s counties remained in opening phases after the state’s COVID-19 business and school dashboards were updated Thursday, but some metrics indicated potential hot spots.

The dashboards, which reflect requirements for businesses and recommendations for schools, are updated every Thursday. The newest data is at least 12 days old to account for lags in reporting, ensuring that assessments are based on accurate statistics. Therefore, the latest update covers the weeks starting Sept. 20 and 27 (through Oct. 3).

Each dashboard is based on levels set by the Arizona Department of Health Services in three metrics: confirmed COVID-19 cases, percent positivity of diagnostic testing and percentage of hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses. There are slight differences in the benchmark levels for each dashboard.

All three benchmarks had to be reached for at least two consecutive weeks for counties to have entered the two opening ranges, moderate or minimal. Counties won’t have their official statuses downgraded unless they fall into the substantial range for all three metrics.

Here’s what Thursday’s updates revealed:

Schools

The schools benchmarks were designed as guidance for districts in their decisions about opening levels.

The health department recommends a hybrid learning model – a blend of virtual and on-campus instruction – for areas in the moderate range and says it’s safe to resume full in-person classes in the minimal stage.

Even though no counties are still in the substantial spread stage, some districts have opted to keep all of their classes online for the time being. Others, meanwhile, have resumed full classes while still in the moderate range.

Only Greenlee County, which had just one case in each of the last two weeks on the dashboard, has gotten down to the minimal range. All other counties are in the moderate range.

However, Gila County has been in the substantial range for two weeks of data in two metrics: cases and percent positivity.

Additionally, Apache and Graham have been above the moderate benchmark for two weeks for the cases metric.

Businesses

The business benchmarks are state requirements that had to be met before indoor gyms, bars operating as restaurants, theaters, water parks and tubing venues — which had been closed June 29 under executive order — were permitted to reopen.

The businesses covered under the executive order had to agree to adhere to capacity restrictions and COVID-19 safety protocols that vary by industry before resuming operations.

Like with schools, only Greenlee County is into the minimal spread stage for businesses.

Gila, Apache, Coconino and Graham, while still classified as moderate overall, have been in the substantial range for two weeks of data in the cases metric.

Indoor gyms and fitness centers are permitted to operate at 25% of capacity in the moderate range and 50% of capacity in the minimal range.

Bars and nightclubs that offer dine-in restaurant service can operate at 50% of capacity in both the moderate and minimal ranges.

Indoor theaters are limited to 50% capacity in both the moderate and minimal ranges.

Water parks/tubing operators can operate at 50% capacity in both the moderate and minimal ranges.

Multiple businesses that had been allowed to reopen have been closed by the state for violating health protocols, and some of them have been allowed to open again.

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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