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Pima County schools navigate new territory as COVID cases rise

Pima County school gym
Posted at 10:25 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 21:49:37-05

PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN) — The start of the Spring semester is already filled with new challenges. Pima County schools are monitoring rising COVID-19 cases and the new Omicron variant.

"I just want to remind people that it's a dynamic situation. As of right now, we're 100% supportive of schools moving forward with in-person learning," said Pima County Public Health Director, Dr. Theresa Cullen.

Guidance from Pima County Health Director, Dr. Theresa Cullen, aligns with that of Arizona Governor, Doug Ducey, who tweeted his support for schools to stay open.

"We believe our schools have done layered mitigation. They continue to do that really well. As you know, we expect schools to mask," said Cullen.

Local school leaders still have concerns.

"One of the things that we've learned about Omicron is that it is highly contagious. We don't want to be Chicago Public Schools, where several schools are already experiencing staffing issues and can't get open. It is operation 'keep everybody healthy', and most importantly, keep them at work," said Tucson Unified School District Superintendent, Dr. Gabriel Trujillo.

Southern Arizona's largest school district, Tucson Unified, has taken many precautions when it comes to COVID-19. They mandated masks in their schools and will require vaccination, or regular testing, for employees.

"This is a policy implementation effort. This not a voluntary survey. We need answers by Friday. If we don't get an employee response by Friday, we will be designating the employees that don't respond as 'unvaccinated'," said Trujillo.

Masking up, testing regularly and getting vaccinated are still the Pima County Health Department's top recommendations. Especially now that teens will soon be eligible to get their booster.

"We've been running school-based clinics. We would assume that those clinics will also accommodate this increase in availability of boosters for this age group," said Trujillo.

To view back-to-school guidance from the Pima County Health Department, click here.