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County team follows health metrics on returning to school during ongoing pandemic

Posted at 7:20 PM, Sep 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-25 23:45:06-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — The Pima County COVID-19 Schools Liaison Team is working with schools to help with mitigation strategies, technology, and even contact tracing.

The team is making recommendations for schools based on the latest health metrics and their guidance right now is to start, slowly.

“If you're going to go to a hybrid model, we can support that, but just do it slowly. Don't rush to get kids back into a classroom right now, especially when we're we may be entering into a higher level of disease spread on even though we do have this projected spike coming up. We're still at a moderate rate of transmission in the community," explained Team Lead Brian Eller.

On September 8, cases were slightly up from their lowered one, but still far below their highest level, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

If Pima County schools go back into the red zone, Eller explained, the county can only recommend the next steps.

“We're pretty comfortable with proceeding towards a hybrid model. If we do start to see really, really high rates of community spread and transmission, then that may be a point where the health department recommends that that staying at home and remote education could be possible," explained Eller.

Right now, Pima county is in the red on declining cases. To meet that benchmark the county must have less than 100 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks, as of September 6, it was at a rate of 105 per 100,000 cases.

“When we get the data back from [AZDHS], it typically is a two week backdated set of data. So we won't know about this week until about two weeks from now,” explained Eller.

The county stresses the importance of picking up the phone. A contact tracer from the county as well as someone from your child’s school district will call you if someone your student has been in contact with someone who has been infected.

The COVID-19 Schools Liaison Team said they wouldn't recommend an entire school quarantine if someone was infected.

"Close contact is pretty clearly defined by the CDC is less than six feet for more than 15 minutes, and that's a consistent definition we've had throughout this period of COVID. That's with or without a mask, but there are some other additional criteria that go beyond that time boundary."

Eller offered examples that would go beyond the time boundary. For instance, sharing utensils when eating, hugging, or even if you caretake for someone who is infected.

"In those cases, those will be the individuals we would run to see quarantine for a period of 14 days," said Eller.