Arizona is in the midst of an increase in average daily COVID-19 cases, though case numbers remain below where they were during the summer spike. What this increase could mean for local schools is still unclear.
The Arizona Department of Health Services recommends hybrid learning for Pima County schools, which allows for willing students to attend campus classes in some capacity. The exact model differs by district.
The Pima County Health Department has its own criteria to determine the safety of local conditions. As of Oct. 22, five of the nine criteria have been met in Pima County. Three criteria have seen progress, while one is still in the red for not being met.
Under Gov. Doug Ducey’s July executive order, once schools clear the benchmarks for hybrid learning, they are to work with local public health officials to plan a safe reopening. The decision of when to reopen schools is left up to the districts.
Of course, all of this is dependent on cases in Pima County remaining manageable.
Complicating matters both in Tucson and in other college towns across the state is the prospect of students leaving town to go home for Thanksgiving. According to fall 2020 data from the University of Arizona, nearly 14,000 non-Arizona resident students are enrolled at the university’s main campus.
UA officials have expressed worries about students traveling during the holidays. To keep track of students’ holiday plans, the UA sent out a mandatory travel survey for students to fill out. Students who do plan to travel are expected to take a rapid antigen test administered by the university before leaving.
ASU expert: Arizona seeing surge in coronavirus cases
PHOENIX — An Arizona State University researcher says Arizona is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases that resembles the early stages of the summer spike that made the state one of the world’s worst hot spots.
Dr. Joshua LaBaer of the ASU Biodesign Institute said Wednesday the latest spike can be attributed to fatigue with masks and social distancing. He says holding strong on mitigation efforts can limit the spread of the disease.
Arizona on Wednesday reported 975 new confirmed coronavirus cases and another 17 deaths. Hospitals reported 832 beds used by COVID-19 patients, the highest number since late August but well below the peak of about 3,500 in July.
Public school enrollment down during pandemic
Data from the Arizona Department of Education shows that fewer students have enrolled in state public schools. Enrollment in district and charter schools is down 4% compared to this time last year, KTAR News reports.
This enrollment decline hit kindergarten classes particularly hard.
Such a decline could greatly affect school budgets, as funding is tied to student enrollment.
Amphitheater reports 3 COVID-19 cases in second week of hybrid classes
Arizona Daily Star
During its second week of hybrid classes, which allow for some students to physically attend school, the Amphitheater School District reported three positive COVID-19 cases and 28 students in quarantine. No staff members were asked to quarantine, the Arizona Daily Star reports.
Arizona has not inspected school ventilation systems during pandemic
The School Facilities Board, which is legally tasked with inspecting Arizona school buildings, stopped inspections in March, when the pandemic began. Since then, concerns over school ventilation have risen, the Arizona Republic reports.
Schools shave largely had to find ways to improve ventilation on their own, with parents occasionally stepping in to help.
Tucson Council asks UA to test all students
The Tucson City Council is set to pass a resolution Tuesday asking the University of Arizona to broaden its COVID-19 testing program.
The non-binding message asks the university to require all students to submit to COVID-19 testing, including those who live off-campus. Currently only those who live in on-campus dorms are required to show a negative COVID test before moving in. For those who live off campus, tests are available, but not required.
UA president Robert Robbins says testing all students is a nice idea, but impractical..
The city wants students tested before the Thanksgiving break and regularly thereafter.
Arizona official expects COVID increases after Thanksgiving
PHOENIX — Arizona reported nearly 1,000 additional COVID-19 cases Thursday as the state health director said she expects a “significance increase” after Thanksgiving. Dr. Cara Christ told radio station KTAR that she’s “highly concerned” because of COVID-19 increases around the country and college students and others returning to Arizona for Thanksgiving.
The state Department of Health Services reported 994 additional known COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 234,906 cases and 5,859 deaths. Arizona’s COVID-19 case numbers and related hospitalizations have increased in recent weeks but remain far below summer peaks.
Committee highlights diversity in NAU presidential search
FLAGSTAFF — Diversity was the subject of the first meeting of the committee looking for Northern Arizona University’s next president. The group called for someone who will collaborate with and support diverse populations, including the Native American community.
The Arizona Daily Sun reported Tuesday that the 14-member committee discussed its vision for the Flagstaff-based campus and the future president during the Friday meeting. The search consultant will use the information to recruit candidates after current President Rita Cheng announced last month that she would not seek an extension of her contract that expires in 2022.
Tohono O’odham Nation donating $1 million to UA for COVID-19 research
The Tohono O’odham Nation announced it’s donating $1 million to the University of Arizona and another million to Arizona State University to further COVID-19 research.
Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr., Tohono O’odham Nation Legislative Council Chairman Timothy Joaquin and the presidents of the two universities made the announcement Monday at ASU. Norris said while tribal members are still in “great need,” a donation to further the research of these institutions will help decrease the impacts of the disease.
“The reason is simple: There is no moving forward, for our safety, our health and our economy until we get this pandemic under control,” Norris said.
Nobel committee cites UA astronomy breakthrough in prize award
The University of Arizona-supported project that yielded the first images of a black hole helped win this year’s Nobel Prize in physics.
Two astronomers and one mathematician shared the Prize announced earlier this month. They found evidence of a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. UA astronomer Dimitrios Psaltis helped start the Event Horizon telescope project. Psalstis notes the Nobel committee’s honor finally confirmed the work begun by Albert Einstein and his colleagues early in the 20th century.
The UA-backed Event Horizon project united eight ground-based telescopes around the world in capturing the ground-breaking image of a black hole in another galaxy 55-million light-years from Earth.