Virus cases at Arizona school send hundreds into quarantine

PHOENIX (AP) — Schools should maintain options for parents whether they prefer in-person or online instruction for their children, Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday as the state sees an uptick in newly confirmed virus cases.

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“We want to provide those options to our kids and families,” Ducey said after touring a Phoenix charter school with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “We think options are very important.”

DeVos has been outspoken in pushing schools to remain open during the pandemic.

“It’s important not only academically, but for their social and emotional growth, for their mental health,” DeVos said. “I really applaud the governor’s leadership here, acknowledging that kids need to be learning.”

Arizona is well positioned as the number of COVID-19 cases rises in schools and the community at large, Ducey said. People in Arizona have done a good job following the advice of public health authorities, the governor said.

“While we are seeing some rising cases in terms of COVID-19, our positivity remains low, our hospital capacity remains large,” Ducey said. “Arizonans have been phenomenal in terms of masking up, socially distancing, washing their hands.”

A high school on the outskirts of the Phoenix area closed Thursday after at least three people tested positive for the coronavirus, sending hundreds into quarantine.

Combs High School in San Tan Valley will be closed until Oct. 27, school officials said. About 450 students and 20 staff members were told to quarantine while the larger school district investigates what is considered an outbreak.

The Pinal County Public Health Department ordered the school's closure because of the number of people who are required to quarantine, not the number of positive cases, school officials said.

Those who tested positive were last on the high school campus Tuesday. Students will do virtual learning while in-person classes are on hold.

The district had planned to open in mid-August for in-person learning but pushed back the date after teachers protested over health and safety concerns.

Arizona reported 1,113 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 17 additional deaths. That brings the total number of cases in the state to 228,748 and deaths to 5,789. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 reached 726 on Monday, up about 250 since mid-September.

Most people experience mild or moderate symptoms with the coronavirus, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.