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Christ: Arizona schools doing ‘great job’ with COVID-19 on case-by-case basis

PHOENIX – Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ said Thursday that the state’s schools “have done a great job” dealing with COVID-19 since in-person classes resumed, and that their response to outbreaks should vary depending on the situation.

Christ told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show that county health officials are in the best position to guide schools where multiple cases are detected.

“Our local health departments are the boots on the ground,” she said. “They are the experts in public health in their communities, and they work with each school on a case-by-case basis.”

For example, she said, if a school with a high number of at-risk students has an outbreak, health officials might recommend returning to online-only instruction.

“Whereas other schools, they may be able to facilitate remaining open for in-person education and working with the contacts,” she said.

Health officials define a school outbreak as two or more cases among staff or students whose only close contact came on campus.

The Wilson School District announced Wednesday it was returning to all-online instruction at both of its Phoenix schools after an outbreak at one of them.

Two Pinal County schools also paused in-person classes recently after documenting the transmission of cases on campus.

Most schools have continued with their on-campus learning after reporting cases, instead taking steps such as requiring off-campus quarantines for students who may have been exposed.

As of Thursday morning, Maricopa County Public Health had reported 32 outbreaks at schools, with 30 still classified as active, involving 131 cases – 94 in students and 37 in staff.

Thursday’s weekly update of the Arizona Department of Health Services’ COVID-19 dashboard for schools showed no stage changes, with 14 counties remaining in the range for hybrid learning and Greenlee County in the traditional learning range.

The benchmarks dashboard provides guidance based on COVID-19 metrics, but districts have the final say in the type of instruction they offer.

“So far, our schools have done a great job as they’ve been returning to in-person school,” Christ said.

“We anticipated that there would be cases when we brought everyone back, but they have great mitigation strategies, they are requiring the use of masks, and the parents are being very cooperative and notifying the schools of cases.”

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