Two more educators over the weekend after contracting the virus.
Arizona hit a somber milestone the day after the Nov. 3 election: the state officially surpassed 250,000 COVID-19 cases since January.
The state health department reported 814 new cases, bringing the total to 250,633. Arizona also saw 39 new deaths, bringing that total to 6,059.
Hospitalizations for the virus also rose past 1,000 for the first time since Aug. 21.
Health experts have been warning that the state, like many others, is seeing another surge.
They say the increase in cases is especially concerning this time of year because it coincides with the flu, which means hospital space and other resources could grow even tighter.
Arizona’s number of daily cases peaked in the summer, when it hit 5,450 in one day on June 29. Deaths peaked a few weeks later on July 17 with 104 reported on one day.
Despite the rising numbers. Gov. Doug Ducey has said he does not plan to reinstate any business closures. He has also not signaled any plans to require masks be worn in public statewide. For now, it’s left up to local governments to decide.
Two More Educators Die
Ash Friederich of Tolleson High School and Nawai Kalai of the Madison Elementary School District educator both died of the virus in recent days.
Friederich was an English teacher and coach, while Kalai was a musician and behavior technician in his district’s special education department.
The Arizona Republic reported that Friedrich developed flu-like symptoms three weeks ago, was hospitalized Friday and died Saturday night. Kalai died Sunday after testing positive for the virus last month, according to KJZZ.
A GoFundMe campaign was set up to help Kalai’s family with funeral expenses and more.
Kimberley Chavez Lopez Byrd, a Gila County elementary school teacher, died from the virus in June. She had been sharing a room with two other teachers to teach virtual summer school.
Two staff members with the Chandler Unified School District have also died from COVID. Kerry Croswhite, a swim and diving coach, died in July, while Joseph Sadri, an information technology worker, died last month.
Gilbert school bus driver Roy Haug also died last month after contracting the virus.
Schools Still Adapting
A number of Arizona schools have seen outbreaks since classrooms reopened for in-person learning. Some schools, including Madison No.1 Middle School and Fountain Hills High School, have paused in-person learning and asked students and teachers to quarantine for two weeks. returned to fully online learning after seeing cases spread.
Some districts, including Phoenix Elementary and Phoenix Union, have chosen a more cautious approach and decided to stay online through at least the end of the year.
The state health department recently changed its guidelines for schools deciding whether to open or close. Now the state is recommending schools return online if three virus-related criteria were met, while the original standard was meeting one of criteria.
The change caused backlash from education leaders, including Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman and Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas, who said they weren’t consulted.
Hoffman later released a joint statement with health department Director Dr. Cara Christ saying there had been a breakdown in communication on the matter.
Currently, the state’s dashboard shows all counties’ schools at the hybrid learning level, except for Greenlee County which has the greenlight to move to traditional in-person learning due to minimal virus transmission.