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Benchmarks for when Arizona schools can resume in-person learning released

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TUCSON (KVOA) - With schools across Arizona gearing up to start its 2020-2021 school year, Arizona health and education departments released its guidelines to direct districts how to navigate through the upcoming school year through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back on June 29, Gov. Doug Ducey delayed the start of in-person classes to Aug. 17. While the order allowed virtual instruction to begin whenever decided by the school leaders, members of the community and district officials reached out to the governor for further guidance on resuming in-person instruction.

After receiving some pressure from protesting parents, teachers and students, Ducey announced July 23 that he will pass the decision of when school would like to resume in-person instruction to local officials and district leaders.

During this announcement, the governor shared ADHS will release public health benchmarks to local districts and charter schools by Friday. These benchmarks will be used for the school leaders to determine whether or not they should open classrooms for in-person learning.

“Our focus is ensuring that Arizona students and teachers have a safe and successful academic year, even though it may look different because of the ongoing pandemic,” Ducey said. “We know the critical services that in-person instruction provides for our children. These benchmarks use public health data guided by recommendations from county, state, and federal experts to inform our schools on implementing a safe return to the classroom.”

On Thursday, the department published the Benchmarks for Safely Returning to In-Person Instruction and shared its guidelines to when schools should resume in-person learning.

Under these guidelines, the schools must see a two-week decline in weekly average cases or two weeks below 100 cases per 100,000 population in its local communities statistics.

In addition, COVID-19 tests taken in the area should have a below 7 percent positive result within the past two week period.

Also, local statistics should show less than 10 percent of hospital visits are due to COVID-like illness over the last two weeks.

According to ADHS dashboard, Pima County met the two-week decline and less than 10 percent of hospital requirements on Thursday. The county currently does not show a below 7 percent positive result in its COVID-19 cases.

In addition, the department also has provided schools information on what to do if a student or staff member tests shows symptoms of COVID-19.

ADHS also included instructions for "wearing masks, washing hands, physical distancing, and understanding COVID-19 symptoms" geared for children.

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Anthony Victor Reyes

Anthony Victor Reyes is the lead digital content producer at News 4 Tucson. The award-winning journalist previously worked as a community reporter in Jasper County, Iowa.

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