Video: AZ Dept. of Ed & Health Services to develop guidance for students’ return to campus

Updated 2/24/21: Dr. Cara Christ said the Arizona Department of Health Services is working the Arizona Department of Education to develop guidelines to safely bring students back to campus for in-person learning during a news conference today where faith leaders encouraged Arizonans to get the COVID-19 vaccination when it is their turn. Watch it live below.

AZ Dept. of Health Services video: COVID-19 Vaccine Event – Feb. 24, 2021

“Three weeks ago today, I had the pleasure of vaccinating the religious leaders who are joining us here today,” Dr. Christ said. “Today I’m happy to complete the cycle by administering the second dose of Pfizer vaccine.”

“More than 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Arizona to over 1 million people,” Dr. Christ said. “Arizona continues to make great strides in vaccinating people against this virus, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

“Next week, a much used vaccination site in the East Valley becomes the fourth state vaccination site. This positions us to vaccinate many Arizona’s quickly and efficiently when our supplies permit,” Dr. Christ said.

“Events like these allows us to look forward to the day when vaccines will help us return to a more normal way of life of being together in houses of worship and other settings,” Dr. Christ said.

“When your turn arrives for the vaccination, please follow the example of those here today and take it,” Dr. Christ said.

Dr. Christ reminds people that side effects from the vaccine are normal and signal your body is producing an immune response to the vaccine.

“These vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel and they are one of the most effective public health tools wed have for fighting disease,” Dr. Christ said.

Then Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr., pastor at First Institutional Baptist Church, said “This is an example of the intersection between faith and medicine.”

Dr. Warren H. Stewart

“It has been proven in all major religions that there is a connection between spirituality and one’s health,” Dr. Stewart said.

“That’s why we as clergy and as faith leaders are just extremely thankful to God for our Department of Health Services and Governor’s Office of Faith, Youth and Family who have partnered with us together to see the intersection with faith and medicine to combat the deadly disease of COVID-19,” Dr. Stewart said.

Dr. Christ said the Arizona Department of Health is working to translate their web page into Spanish to make it more accessible to more Arizonans.

In addition, AZDHS reached out the community with telephonic town hall with community members in the 85009 Zip Code with partners and will be repeated again in a few weeks, Dr. Christ said.

“As we get more vaccine we’re trying to get more community based and local vaccination sites places like community colleges and churches, where people live nearby so there’s not a barrier based on transportation or something else to go get vaccinated,” Dr. Christ said.

Dr. Christ said they are working on a list of fields for critical workers to get people prioritized as the state moves into Phase I B of vaccinating essential workers.

“COVID-19 vaccine availability is expected to ramp up between March and April,” said Dr. Christ in response to a question of when the general population may be able to get the vaccine.

Reopening schools

Supt. of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman held a news conference today with Dr. Jason Vargas, president of the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Ylenia Aguilar, Governing Board President of Osborn School District, to discuss the next steps for schools to return to in-person learning safely.

“I recognize that some school communities need more time to plan and prepare. I want to support schools at every stage, so that when they do resume in-person learning, they are doing so safely with mitigation strategies in place, enforced, and with the support of their families, students, and teachers.” Supt. Hoffman said.

“We know that child-to-child spread is not the cause of community transmission; it simply mirrors what is going on the community. Because of that and to keep our schools open we must do our best to decrease risk of community spread,” said Dr. Vargas with the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We all have a shared responsibility to ensure there is as little disease as possible circulating in the community when we send our children back.”

“Every school district will need to make the appropriate decisions in order to keep their communities safe, so we should expect that many decisions will be different across Arizona,” said Ylenia Aguilar, Governing Board President of Osborn School District . “It will take a community effort to support and manage the safe reopening of schools for in-person learning.”

To support schools’ efforts for a safe return to in-person learning, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) recently announced allocations from the second federal COVID-19 relief bill. These one-time recovery funds will be critical to helping schools implement mitigation strategies like improved ventilation.   

Additionally, the ADE used discretionary funds to ensure that all non-profit public schools receive federal funding, regardless of their size or location. This decision is critical to supporting our small, rural, and remote schools, which far too often are left behind when resources are allocated.

Click here for more.

Last night, I joined @tedatpbs on @arizonapbs to talk about federal relief and recovery funding for Arizona’s public schools and @azedschools decision to provide targeted funding for our small, rural, and remote schools. Check out our conversation⬇️

— Kathy Hoffman (@Supt_Hoffman) February 23, 2021

When asked about recommendations for schools to reopen safely, Dr. Christ said, “The CDC just came out with recommendations for re-opening schools. My team is taking a look and seeing what their recommendations are. What mitigation strategies they are recommending and we’re going to make recommendations.”

“I was speaking with the Department of Education this morning, and so they’re very excited about the mitigation strategies. They want kids back in school and they want schools to be opening safely,” Dr. Christ said.

“We’ll be continuing to work together with them on that guidance as we get it developed,” Dr. Christ said.

As distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic nears a year, Arizona’s Republican legislators are seeking to expand ESA eligibility to nearly 70 percent of Arizona students, despite voters rejecting voucher expansion just two years ago.

GAGGLE PODCAST: How the debate over reopening schools is shaping school voucher proposals via @azcentral ⁦@lilyalta⁩ ⁦@robodellaz⁩

— YvonneWingettSanchez 🏜 (@yvonnewingett) February 24, 2021

Littleton Elementary School District reminds parents it’s time to make their fourth quarter learning choice for their students.

Parents-make sure you know your student’s ID because later today you will receive an email asking you if you want your children to return to classroom for the 4th quarter on March 22nd or if you want them to remain online for the remainder of this school year. #LESD65

— Littleton ESD 65 (@LESD65) February 24, 2021

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arizona rose to 811,968 today from  810,658 yesterday, and 15,693 have died from the virus, said the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Dr. Christ spoke with residents of Phoenix ZIP code 85009 about #COVID19 vaccines during a town hall event Tuesday night. Community members had questions about how to get the vaccine, safety, and cost. Read about the event:

— AZ Dept of Health (@AZDHS) February 24, 2021

In Maricopa County, there are 507,480 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 108,772 in Pima County, 45,865 in Pinal County, 36,3456  in Yuma County, 20,992 in Mohave County, 16,975  in Yavapai County, 15,513  in Navajo County, 16,360  in Coconino County, 11,100 in Cochise County, 10,357 in Apache County, 7,611  in Santa Cruz County, 6,366 in Gila County, 5,280 in Graham County, 2,383 in La Paz County and 557 in Greenlee County.

Free #Covid19 saliva testing continues throughout Arizona in partnership w/@AZDHS:

– Use agency code SALIVATEST
– Results typically < 48hrs
– Ages 5+
– Drive-thru/walk-up avail depending on location
– Arrive on time w/QR code (no ID req)


— Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University (@ASUBiodesign) February 22, 2021

Arizona Dept. of Health Services Interactive Graphic: (Hover over counties and boxes for more info)


It is wonderful to see Valley faith leaders stepping forward to roll up their sleeves!

— AZ Dept of Health (@AZDHS) February 24, 2021

Queen Creek Unified School District students take part in a Socratic Seminar discussing their article on COVID-19 and video games.

5th grade students @QCEEagles participated in a Socratic Seminar discussing their article on Covid-19 and Video Games. @QCUSD_AVID @qcusd @AVID4College

— Steve Watkins (@MathCoachSteve) February 24, 2021

House Bill 2015 seeks to provide funding for high-quality preschool for low-income families.

House Bill 2015 aims at funding high-quality preschool for low-income families #abc15

— ABC15 Arizona (@abc15) February 24, 2021

Norterra Canyon Middle School Marching Band shares their music with fellow students.

❤️😎. We have the best students and an amazing band instructor!!! @DVUSD @DrFinchDVUSD @AdminLeadServe @ptseunis #iloveDVschools #PublicSchoolProud #PublicSchoolsWeek

— Jen Hermanson (@jennife87896425) February 24, 2021

How the COVID-19 pandemic impacted state invitational tournaments for high school athletes for most conferences.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the Arizona Interscholastic Association to eliminate invitational tournaments and, for most conferences, reduced the state tournaments to 16 teams.

— Richard Obert (@azc_obert) February 24, 2021

Phoenix Elementary School District‘s Thomas A. Edison Elementary students have shown surprising success with distance learning.

Phoenix school district finds surprising success with remote learning: #abc15

— ABC15 Arizona (@abc15) February 24, 2021

Earlier coverage

Feb. 11 to Feb. 23: U.S. Dept of Ed: Students must take standardized tests, but there’s flexiblity on when & how

Feb. 2 to Feb. 9: Video: Supt. Hoffman gives State of Special Education address

Jan. 21 to Feb. 1: Black History Mural Month Project to highlight pioneers of the Black community launches in Phoenix

Jan. 10 – Jan 20: How students engage with Inauguration Day

Dec. 21, 2020 to Jan 8, 2021: Teachers help students deal with attacks on Congress, Capitol

Nov. 30 – Dec. 16: Watch it now: Dr. Christ asks people to avoid holiday gatherings with people they do not live with

Nov. 18 – 25: COVID-19 cases rise before Thanksgiving adding to school and hospital leaders’ concerns

Nov. 16: More schools return to online learning as COVID-19 cases rise

Nov. 2 – 13: $19 M grant would help schools with teacher development, stipends, reading & math curriculum, summer ed resources and more

Oct. 20 to Oct. 30: AZDHS amends COVID-19 school benchmarks

Oct. 7 – Oct. 19: What are teachers doing ahead of elections to support students afterwards

Aug. 25 – Sept. 8: Parents voice concern about online class size; school nurses prepare for students

Aug. 12 – Aug. 24: Students, teachers affected by Zoom outage

July 30 – Aug. 11: Parent organizes co-op for learners; group rallies for in-person school days after benchmarks release

July 13- July 30: Teachers prepare for digital learning and back to school

June 29 – July 12: Video: Gov. says ‘Goal is to get children back to school when it’s safe;’ Schools lay out learning models

June 29: Video: Gov. delays in-person classes to Aug. 17 due to rise in COVID-19

June 15 – June 29: Video: Gov. pauses re-opening of some businesses as COVID-19 cases rise

June 24: Plan provides more funding, flexible instruction as schools re-open

May 26 – June 12: Increase in COVID-19 cases marks a new daily high

May 20 – 25: AZ Dept. of Ed releases COVID-19 guidance to schools for summer programs, back to school

May 11 – 19: Arizonans consider workplace safety, what back to school will look like amid COVID-19

April 26 – May 10: Stores re-open, COVID-19 testing blitz resumes on Saturday

April 8 – 25: You can get tested now if you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19

March 12 – April 7: Coronavirus response: Cases rise; AZ Day of Giving

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