Arizona school districts' responses vary to growing outbreak

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PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona has reported over 3,000 additional known COVID-19 cases as the deepening coronavirus outbreak prompted varying responses by school districts across the state.

The additional 3,015 cases and 17 deaths reported Friday by state Department of Health Services increased the state's totals to 269,577 cases and 6,257 deaths.

According to data from The COVID Tracking Project analyzed by The Associated Press, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Arizona rose from 1,082 on Oct. 29 to 1,971 on Thursday. During the same period, the rolling average for daily deaths went from 8.4 to 21.9 and the rolling average of testing positivity 9.8% to 14.2%.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

The state has provided school districts with county-by-county voluntary benchmarks to consider when deciding whether to open or close schools.

The benchmarks, which were updated Thursday and show worsening conditions in many areas recently, are based on numbers of COVID-19 cases, testing positivity and hospital visits for COVID-like illness.

Districts deciding this week to move to remote learning from hybrid learning that includes partial in-school instruction include Creighton Elementary and Paradise Valley Unified, both in Phoenix.

“While we wish we could continue to offer students an in-person learning opportunity, with the rising spread of COVID-19 in our community, continuing to do so would not be safe for our students, families, and staff at this time,” Paradise Valley Unified said in a letter to parents.

Flagstaff Unified School District decided this week to remain in remote learning until January, and Madison Elementary in Phoenix said it was still considering what to do.

Madison said in a statement that while its board “is concerned for the health and welfare of our students, teachers and staff, they also recognize the need for students to learn in-person while providing families the option to have their children learn from home."

Prescott Unified School District will postpone its planned expansion on Monday of hybrid learning for grades 5 to 12 to three days a week from two, Superintendent Joe Howard told The Daily Courier.

“This is a lose-lose,” Howard said of options that involve optimal learning with student and staff health and safety. “Our eyes are always on doing what is the best thing for kids. Always.”

The Kingman Unified School District's board decided Tuesday to keep schools fully open, The Daily Miner reported.

Superintendent Gretchen Dorner said that in-person instruction is “a more successful model than the online model.”

Dorner said many employees choose to get tested and that students with fevers are being detected at the door and sent home to quarantine.

“Many efforts are working,” Dorner said. “But we can’t take our eyes off it.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.


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