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Pima County Health Director: Masks important to help keep schools open

Say County works to avoid clearing classrooms
APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Texas Schools
Posted at 7:12 PM, Aug 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-19 22:47:18-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Pima County’s Health director says masks are part of the County’s push to keep schools open for in-person instruction. Dr. Teresa Cullen is also preparing for people to get their third COVID shots.

Dr. Cullen says the county has seen about 800 COVID cases in schools, 700 of those in children. She says fewer than 10 children have needed hospital treatment. Dr. Cullen says the County has shut down some classrooms, but if possible will simply isolate the children who were close enough to each other to be most affected.

"So our goal is to really keep the classes and the schools open," she said. "Right now, especially if we can encourage and get compliance with masking, I would hope that we do not need to go back to hybrid [instruction]."

Older students and University of Arizona students concern her as they come back to campus. She hopes most will be vaccinated but knows many will not be -- and she says the infection rate is so high, each person with COVID has the potential to infect an average of six more.

"You can see how you could have a rampant rapid spread, comparable to what we had last year if you'll recall, in September," Dr. Cullen said. "So our hope is that people will mask, people will be vaccinated, if they're not vaccinated, they will test on a regular basis."

Looking forward to new guidelines that call for booster shots, she says people with weak immune systems can get boosters now through a wide range of sources. Boosters should be available for other groups next month with the first going to the people vaccinated early on, like medical workers, first responders and older people.