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Arizona COVID-19 dashboards stable, but changes could be coming

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX – COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate across Arizona, but not enough to affect how counties are classified in the state’s school and business dashboards.

But the status quo might not last much longer if coronavirus metrics continue trending in the wrong direction, according to Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“So we will start to see counties that are heading into having more of the substantial metrics,” Christ told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Thursday morning, shortly before the weekly dashboard update was posted.

The dashboards for schools and businesses are based on three metrics that gauge how widespread the disease is in each county.

The business benchmarks are state requirements that must be followed by establishments previously closed under Gov. Doug Ducey’s June executive order: indoor gyms, bars operating as restaurants, theaters, water parks and tubing venues.

The schools benchmarks were designed as guidance for K-12 districts in their decisions about opening levels. Districts, however, have the final say in whether they offer virtual, hybrid or traditional learning formats.

Benchmarks in all three metrics had to be reached for at least two consecutive weeks for counties to enter the opening stage for businesses and the hybrid or traditional learning recommendation levels for schools.

Levels for business openings and hybrid or traditional learning were attained in all 15 counties by Oct. 1.

No statuses have changed since then.

“It does require all three metrics to be in a category to move back to that category, so you won’t see any changes right now with where the counties are,” Christ said.

“But they are heading in the wrong direction, and in the next few weeks we could start to see some shift.”

The dashboards are updated each Thursday with data at least 12 days old to account for lags in reporting, ensuring that assessments are based on accurate statistics. The latest update covers the weeks starting Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 (through Nov. 7).

Every county was above 100 cases per 100,000 residents, the threshold for the substantial stage, for at least the most recent week of data.

Ten counties have been in the substantial stage for at least two weeks in at least one metric, with four (Yuma, Santa Cruz, Navajo and Graham) at substantial in two metrics.

The metric for regional percentage of hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses has been sitting in the minimal range for every county since the dashboards were launched in August.

That metric ticked up to the bottom of the moderate range for the northern region counties – Yavapai, Coconino, Apache and Navajo — in the most recent week of data.

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