The Maricopa County Department of Public Health warning that even with decreasing case numbers and a lower percent positivity rate, more progress needs to be made before schools can safely reopen.
During a press conference on Wednesday afternoon the department detailed how its working with superintendents, school nurses, administrators and others, to address questions or concerns they have regarding reopening school campuses. Based on Governor Ducey's executive order, the earliest that can occur is August 17.
The state health department is supposed to release key benchmarks by Friday, August 7, to help guide districts in making these critical choices. Benchmarks could include key data points like decreasing case numbers, a decrease in percent positivity and a specific cutoff for the percent of tests positive.
Several districts have already pushed back the start of their in-person instruction through Labor Day or even Fall Break. However there are charter schools and districts still aiming for an August 17 in-person start.
"Given the benchmarks that we've discussed with our work group and benchmarks that we believe ADHS may consider, we are not currently meeting those benchmarks to have our schools fully re-open and go back to in person, teacher-lead classes," said Marcy Flanagan, executive director for Maricopa County Department of Public Health. "I don't want to say that we won't be ready August 17, or we won't be ready until after Labor Day, what I'm saying is we are not ready to fully go back to in-person classes until we meet the benchmarks that we identify."
The department announced it will also create a data dashboard to help school leaders track the spread of COVID-19 in their community. That data will be sorted by zip code, district and city, and updated weekly.