State Superintendent Hoffman Urges Arizonans To Fight COVID-19 Spread, Help Schools Stay Open

By Rocio Hernandez, Lauren Gilger
Published: Tuesday, November 10, 2020 - 12:21am
Updated: Tuesday, November 10, 2020 - 12:27pm

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Kathy Hoffman
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Kathy Hoffman at a news conference on July 23, 2020.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman and school districts leaders pleaded with the community to do their part to minimize the spread of COVID-19 so schools can remain open.

As cases rise in Arizona, school leaders face difficult decisions about closing schools so students and teachers don’t become sick, she said during a Monday press conference. 

“The more that we ignore this virus, the less stability that we provide our students and their families," Hoffman said. "This is the consequence of not taking this virus seriously.” 

Many Arizona schools, especially those in tribal nations, have not been able to open for in-person or hybrid learning at all this year, and may not be able to do so anytime soon due to the recent spike, she said. 

“The students who have been engaged in distanced learning since March could remain so for some time. That’s a long time for a student to go without interaction with their peers," said Hoffman.

Hoffman and state health director Dr. Cara Christ also expressed concerns about the impact this year has had on students’ mental health. Forty-three children under the age of 17 have died by suicide this year, five more than last year, Christ said. 

"This year has been extremely difficult for everyone, but especially our children," she said. 

Hoffman and Christ announced a new campaign called Healthy Kids, Open Schools that will provide schools and parents with guidance for keeping kids healthy and preventing COVID-19 transmission. 

“This campaign focuses on the importance of keeping kids home when they’re sick or have a positive test result, the importance of following public health recommendations including a 14-day quarantine or a 10-day isolation period and notifying school administration of any symptoms or test results," Christ said.  

The state will provide students and their families with five free masks through a partnership with Hanes, which they can request online. The state is looking to add additional sites for teachers and their communities to get free testing. It also plans to start offering free peer-to-peer counseling to address how COVID-19 is impacting the mental health of teachers and administrators, similar to what the state is already doing for health care workers.

The Show spoke with Hoffman on Tuesday about the current rise in cases and other issues facing Arizona schools.

KJZZ's Hunter Brownstein contributed to this report.

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