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Arizona Superintendent Kathy Hoffman calling for COVID-19 cases inside schools to be released publicly

Arizona Superintendent Kathy Hoffman calling for COVID-19 cases inside schools to be released publicly
Posted at 9:21 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 00:35:48-04

Arizona’s top superintendent of public instruction is calling for COVID-19 cases inside of schools to be released publicly.

FULL COVERAGE: Safely Back to School in Arizona

Superintendent Kathy Hoffman released a statement on Tuesday saying reporting cases publicly will help control information. “Having detailed communications protocols in place – and making them publicly available – can help provide some level of certainty in these very uncertain times.”

Hoffman references individuals finding out about positive cases in schools through the grapevine, “And while we can’t control every rumor that goes through a school, we – as school leaders – should prioritize consistent and transparent communication.”

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has not mandated school districts to publicly report COVID-19 cases, they are only required to report cases to the Arizona Department of Health Services. State leaders cite confidentiality concerns and state law as reasons to not have the information be released publicly.

“I encourage all school leaders to utilize the Roadmap for Reopening Schools [azed.gov], particularly the sections on communication procedures and emergency preparedness, to ensure that the communities we serve feel confident in our ability to be focused on transparency and safety,” Hoffman said in the statement.

For the first, we’re getting details on counties like Coconino and Pima counties expected to move back into the substantial spread category.

ADHS said on Tuesday that businesses in counties moving into the red will only move backwards with restrictions if all three metrics go up. That would include percent positivity going up, COVID-like illness in hospitals, and cases per 100,000.

In August, ADHS put out metrics for businesses to reopen, but officials say they are not recommended to move backwards.

In an email, an ADHS spokesperson wrote, “The benchmarks were developed to determine how to safely reopen these businesses, with enhanced requirements to limit the spread of COVID-19. With those in effect, increased enforcement, positivity well below June and July levels, and hospitalizations far lower than at that time, ADHS has determined that a county will only move “backward” if it hits all three benchmarks (Cases per 100,000, Percent Positivity, and COVID-Like Illnesses in Hospitals). Should this occur, ADHS will work with county health officials to determine next steps.”

ADHS said Arizona now has broad access to testing, fast turnaround for results and enhanced contact tracing by the state and county. They also say strict mitigation strategies are being enforced, including:

  • Masks are required at restaurants if you're not actively eating or drinking
  • Masks required at salons and barbershops
  • Gyms are operating at 25 percent capacity
  • Bars are operating as restaurants with limitations on areas for people to congregate.
  • AZDHS has established a public hotline to report violations of these requirements.

However, Arizona’s former director of emergency management says there needs to consistency with plans and a unified response, “the effort right now with the state looks quite bifurcated,” said Wendy Smith-Reeve.

Smith-Reeve said it’s important for the public, and businesses to know what the repercussions will be if counties go the wrong direction in all three categories.

“What’s really important is if we’re going to move the goal posts, if we’re going to change the guidelines, okay, but you need to be very clear what that message is and adhere and demonstrate that you are going to follow through,” said Smith-Reeve.