Official: Arizona schools need virus data to reopen campuses
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona's school districts should be empowered to reopen campuses for the new school year based on public health data instead of committing now to specific reopening dates, the state's top education official said Tuesday.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said she outlined her priorities to Gov. Doug Ducey, who is expected to announce the next steps for school reopenings this week.
Ducey, a Republican, previously delayed the start of the school year until Aug. 17, weeks after most Arizona schools reopen after the summer break.
Hoffman, a Democrat, outlined several metrics she said would be helpful for school officials to use in deciding when to welcome children back on campus. They included a downward trajectory in new confirmed COVID-19 cases, a decrease in the rate of positive test results and the widespread availability of testing with timely results.
Schools also need a guarantee of full funding for distance learning, Hoffman said.
"However, we cannot ask schools to make decisions that will impact the teachers' and students' health and safety without first providing them with the necessary public health data and funding to make safe decisions," Hoffman said in a statement on Twitter.
Ducey and his top health official, Dr. Cara Christ, said last week that they would prefer for their own children to return to school on campus.
Arizona officials on Wednesday reported an additional 1,926 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 56 more deaths. The number of new confirmed cases was down significantly from the previous day's count of 3,500. Meanwhile, the number of in-patient hospitalizations, intensive care unit beds in use and ventilators being used remained steady.
Arizona has confirmed 150,609 COVID-19 infection cases overall with 2,974 deaths in the state. The number of infections in Arizona and elsewhere is thought to be much higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.