NewsGetting Back to School


Former ADHS director stresses importance of enforcing mitigation strategies for schools to remain open

school bus AP
Posted at 7:53 PM, Oct 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-18 18:42:36-04

On Friday night, the total active COVID-19 cases throughout Scottsdale Unified School District was bumped up to 25. Earlier in the week, that number was at 14.

As more schools return to in-person learning, the expectation is that zero cases at any school is nearly impossible, according to former Arizona Department of Health Director Will Humble.

Right now, there are 21 'clusters' of COVID-19 cases throughout Maricopa County schools. According to language on the AZ Department of Health website, a 'cluster' is defined as two or more positive cases at a school.

"I'm not ready to call this a failed experiment at all. There are clear benefits to in-person school for kids. And, there have been a handful of cases but I wouldn't say they are over the top," said Humble.

A thorough check of districts who have put out their COVID-19 active cases through the district's dashboard shows that Chaparral High School (SUSD) and Mesa High School (MPS) are both showing 14 active cases.

"The one question that I have quite honestly is whether these, especially football, the athletic component of high school is really worth it. It's a close contact sport and the high schools aren't equipped, they don't have the resources like the PAC-12 or the NCAA has," added Humble.

E-mails from parents into the ABC15 newsroom provide a different picture. Some parents say the district's dashboards are 'not reporting all' cases. On Friday, the Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Scott Menzel told ABC15's Steve Irvin:

"The numbers we reported were lab-confirmed cases through yesterday—these are cases verified by the health department. There are many rumors of other additional positive cases, but the district works with MCDPH to confirm cases. For example, sometimes people report a positive COVID case when they had an antibody test instead of a PCR or antigen test. An antibody test is not reflective of an active COVID case."

In another email from a parent in the East Valley, one viewer tells us the mask mandate isn't being enforced at her teenager's high school.

"Require face masks but enforce it, and when it slips below the nose, call it out," says Humble when speaking of the need for enforcement of mitigation procedures such as mask-wearing and social distancing protocols.

He adds that schools with loose mitigation policies could see themselves shutting down in the near future. Two schools in Pinal County have shut their doors for the next few weeks as they mitigate COVID-19 cases.

"If you have a slip shot approach to this as an administrator, you might get away with it for a few weeks, but you are not gonna get away with it for the entire semester, you are gonna get a cascade of cases, having to go back to virtual learning, and then all the kids lose."

In a recent interview with Governor Doug Ducey over the situation playing out across Maricopa County, Governor Ducey mentioned the benchmarks are working when asked if schools should close due to COVID-19.

"So just because you see a lot of kids asked to stay home, it doesn't mean that the district is failing at their mitigation. It could actually be a sign that they are taking the case investigation seriously and making those clear recommendations to parents that they should keep their kids home for two weeks," added Humble.