Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday that the changes to public health guidelines that give more leeway before recommending shutting down in-person learning at K-12 schools are still just guidance.
While announcing additional aid for food assistance at St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix, Ducey addressed the changes that state public health officials made earlier this week.
“Where it is possible and safe, we want our schools open, and we want our kids inside a classroom with a teacher in front of a classroom and them getting the best, safest education possible,” Ducey said.
The changes made this week address when the state says schools should make the switch back to all-online learning. According to the guidelines released in August, the state would tell schools that they should close their classrooms to in-person learning when either the number of new cases or percentage of positive tests or COVID-19-like illnesses rose to what they considered “substantial community spread.”
Under the new guidance, all three of those must be substantial before the state recommends a school return to all-virtual learning, making a switch back to all-online learning less likely.
Still, the state has not gone beyond offering guidance, rather allowing schools to set their plans for returning to in-person learning.
Virtual learning, while arguably safer in the fight against COVID-19, has left parents with few options and big bills. A study by the National Women’s Law Center found more than 865,000 women left the workforce in August and September. They don’t directly blame virtual learning, but many news outlets have interviewed mothers who stepped away from work to be home for their children’s classes.
On Thursday, the Arizona Department of Health Services announced 1,315 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 deaths of patients with COVID-19. To date, the state has seen 242,480 total cases, attributing 5,918 deaths to COVID-19. Percent positivity last week in Arizona was 6.3%.
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