TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The delta variant continues as the dominant strain in Arizona, and the Pima County Health Department is doing their part to curb the spread within classrooms.
Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen says the health department now has the power to shut down classrooms; a new role she says they welcome with open arms.
“We anticipated that we would have outbreaks, I do not think we anticipated the extent of what we are seeing,” Dr. Cullen told KGUN9.
She says a couple of months ago, they were hopeful a fourth wave would not come. Now, they’re being realistic.
“Because up until the age of 12, kids cannot get immunized. We know we’re going to see massive transmission in schools right now,” she added.
Before school started, school districts could make the call to shut down classrooms or send students home to quarantine. Now, the Pima County Health Department has the power to make those calls. Here’s how it works:
“Somebody would either let us know or we would know because a case got reported. At that point we would do this accelerated response,” said Dr. Cullen.
If there are multiple cases in a classroom, the department does an outbreak evaluation.
“And we walk through very specific questions. What’s the layout of the school. What’s the ventilation in the school. What are the potential interventions that have been done,” she added.
Then the department makes a decision in conjunction with the school.
Something to note: an outbreak situation means there are (at least) two positive COVID cases of students who don’t live in the same household. If this is the case, the department then considers shutting down the classroom these students are in.
This is a decision the health department made for a classroom inside Senita Valley Elementary School, within the Vail Unified School District. This happened after three students tested positive for COVID-19.
“For the ones that are issuing the quarantines we're working closely with them on the contact tracing we agree on who those close contacts are and then the health department issues, hey these are the kids that are in close contact and need to quarantine,” said Vail Unified Superintendent John Carruth.
“We only shut it down when we think the risk and the benefit enables us to make the decision where the risk is too high to let a classroom continue,” Dr. Cullen told KGUN9.