woman wearing masks kneeling and adjusting mask on young boy's face Shutterstock Photo

School leaders are worried that unsafe holiday gatherings will increase transmission. 

Arizona officials are calling on the public to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines to not only to keep themselves healthy, but to allow kids to continue attending school. 

Several schools across the state have had to return to online learning after seeing outbreaks. Sometimes those closures are temporary, usually lasting at least two weeks, while others will last through the rest of the year. 

Dr. Cara Christ, state health department director, said at a press conference Monday that she worries sending kids back home will lead to negative mental health consequences. 

Join Director Dr. Cara Christ, school leaders and I as we discuss how #COVID19 is impacting our school communities and how we can all do our part to slow the spread.

Posted by Superintendent Kathy Hoffman on Monday, November 9, 2020

Last year, she said, the state saw 38 children under age 17 die by suicide. This year, that number is already at 43. 

John Carruth, superintendent of the Vail Unified School District in Pima County, said his district lost two students to suicide this year. 

“It reminds us that this year has been extremely difficult for everyone, but especially our children,” Christ said. “Keeping our kids in school for in-person learning is one of our priorities.”

School leaders are worried that holiday gatherings and travel will lead to transmission that will then spread through the classroom.

Dr. Andi Fourlis, superintendent of Mesa Public Schools, said her district will have students stay home and learn remotely an extra day after Thanksgiving break. District leaders hope the pause will contain potential spread. 

Gov. Doug Ducey followed up with his own guidance Tuesday, repeating the call to keep schools, as well as businesses, open. 

To prevent outbreaks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following for holiday events:

  • Limit the number of guests
  • Have guests bring their own food, drinks, and utensils
  • Eat and interact outside if possible
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces

Arizona reported 3,434 new cases Tuesday morning, bringing the total to more than 263,000. The state crossed the 250,000 mark just six days prior. 

There were 2,401 cases confirmed in one day on Nov. 5 — the most since July 17.