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Arizona sets virus spread guidelines for school reopenings

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Arizona sets virus spread guidelines for school reopenings

PHOENIX —

Arizona’s top health official and the state’s education chief laid out a series of guidelines Thursday that public schools were urged to use when deciding whether coronavirus infection rates are low enough to safely reopen for full in-person learning.

The officials, however, said parents should not expect to see a return to normal at their child’s school anytime soon.

“We think it is going to be several weeks before any county meets those benchmarks, but we do see it trending down,” said Dr. Cara Christ, who leads the Arizona Health Services Department. The scientific guidelines released by Christ’s department lay out three key measurements of the virus’ community impact. But they are just guidelines, and school districts won’t be required to reopen or forced to close if they are not met. The metrics will be broken out for all 15 Arizona counties, and schools will use their county’s numbers.

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Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman discouraged school boards from deviating.

“Schools should adhere to these benchmarks and school boards should be held accountable by their community members to follow the public health recommendations,” Hoffman said.

The guidelines say schools can consider re-opening for partial in-person learning once their county meets several criteria as measured over two weeks: fewer than 100 new cases per 100,000 people or a sustained drop in new cases; a rate of positive tests that is 10% or less; and fewer than 10% of hospital visits for COVID-like symptoms.Schools can consider fully re-opening once there are fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 people, the test positivity rate falls below 5% and fewer than 5% of hospital visits are for […]

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