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Only 2 counties meet Arizona's benchmarks to reopen in-person schooling
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Only 2 counties meet Arizona's benchmarks to reopen in-person schooling

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Gov. Doug Ducey said: “There are some parents that want, as soon as it’s possible, to get their children back into a classroom. And there are parents that” do not.

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey says he won’t intercede or criticize school districts that opt to reopen for in-class instruction though their communities do not meet the COVID-19 benchmarks set by his health director.

“We want people to follow the benchmarks,” which are three key indicators of the spread of COVID-19, the governor reiterated at a press briefing Thursday.

Only two counties have reached the benchmarks: Apache and Yavapai. There is no indication when conditions in the other 13 counties will get to the place where the health department says schools can begin “hybrid” teaching, meaning a combination of virtual and in-person learning.

But Ducey said he sees these benchmarks as less clear cut.

“They are guidelines,” he said, adding that other things should also be considered, such as trends, and situations for those most directly involved.

“There are some parents that want, as soon as it’s possible, to get their children back into a classroom,” Ducey said. “And there are parents that we all know are not putting their child back in the classroom.”

He said the state is trying to “provide options” for both.

However, “We also have some teachers that are in a vulnerable category or have an underlying health condition,” Ducey said. “And we will need online learning in this hybrid model.”

Where the counties stand

All 15 counties meet the first of the three benchmarks: two weeks where hospital visits due to COVID-like illnesses fall below 10% of the total.

And 11 counties are showing a two-week decline in the total number of cases or, in the alternative, a case rate of less than 100 per 100,000 residents. Cochise, Greenee, Pima and Pinal do not.

Only Apache, Cochise, Greenlee and Yavapai counties meet the third prong of having fewer than 7% of tests for the coronavirus come back positive.

Flu will also be an issue

COVID-19 may be just one of the health problems schools face.

“Arizona’s flu season goes about October to May, with our hardest months usually being January to March,” said state Health Director Dr. Cara Christ. She promised a public relations campaign in hopes of getting as many people to take the flu vaccine.

“While it’s not 100% effective it does significantly reduce hospitalization and complications and bad outcomes,” Christ said.

Ducey hinted that he might use some federal coronavirus dollars to help provide vaccines to those who may not have health insurance. “I want to find a way that any Arizonan that wants to get a flu shot can get one,” he said. “Details to follow.”

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