Maricopa County Working On COVID-19 Data Dashboard To Guide School Reopenings

By Rocio Hernandez
Published: Wednesday, August 5, 2020 - 4:24pm

Maricopa County public health department officials are preparing to release a COVID-19 data dashboard that school leaders can use to determine when it’s safe to offer in-person classes, they said in a Wednesday press conference.

The data will be divided by ZIP code, school district and city, said the department's Medical Director for Disease Control Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine. It will be updated weekly and can be used to monitor for signs of increasing community spread of COVID-19. 

“Remember keeping schools open doesn’t just depend on the action of schools, but the actions of the entire community," she said. 

If the county sees an increase of community spread of COVID-19 after in-person learning begins, it may recommend schools go back distance learning or offer a combination of distance and in-person learning. 

The state is expected to release public health benchmarks on school reopenings later this week. In the meantime, the county’s health department has been reviewing metrics used across the country. Sunenshine said three commonly used metrics are: a decrease in the number of cases per 100,000 persons, a decline in the percent of tests that are positive and setting a threshold for that percentage. A popular threshold is having less than five percent positive tests," Sunenshine said. 

“Most agree that these indicators need to be sustained for a full two weeks to ensure that the data are stable," she said. 

Because it can take some time for positive cases to be reported to the health department, Sunenshine said it also looks at data from two weeks prior because it's more complete and includes everyone who has been tested in that time frame. 

While the county is seeing a steady decrease of the number of COVID cases that are reported daily and a stabilization of hospitalization rates, health officials say it doesn’t necessarily mean that in-person teaching may be possible soon. 

As of July 19, the percent of positive tests in the county was 13%, an improvement from last month, but still above the ideal threshold, Sunenshine said. 

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