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AZDHS revises recommended coronavirus guidelines for schools

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Health Services updated the recommended guidelines for schools deciding which model to deliver instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The updated guidance recommends school districts transition from hybrid to virtual learning if all three benchmarks move to substantial for two weeks.

The guidance also urges schools that are in a county with one benchmark in the red category for two weeks or more to consult with their local health department about whether to transition back to virtual models.

These recommendations apply even if different benchmarks constitute the two or more weeks in the red zone.

Before the revision, AZDHS recommended schools close if just one of the benchmarks was in the most severe category for two weeks.

The 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.

AZDHS’ schools dashboard was designed to provide guidance, but districts have the final say in the type of instruction they offer.

The new guidance comes as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the state. On Tuesday, Arizona health authorities reported 1,157 new coronavirus cases and 16 additional deaths, bringing the state’s documented totals at 240,122 COVID-19 infections and 5,891 fatalities.

According to the Maricopa County school’s dashboard, 36 schools have reported COVID-19 outbreaks on their campuses.

An outbreak is defined as two or more confirmed coronavirus cases who were in contact with one another but not from the same household. The outbreak is officially closed when a school goes 28 days without a new case.

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.

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