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Coconino County meets state metrics for return to in-person classes

Kaydence Mason and Benjamin Cole pre-pare to have their temperatures checked prior to entering their classes at Williams Elementary-Middle School. Students returned to in-person instruction Aug. 17. (Loretta McKenney/WGCN)

Kaydence Mason and Benjamin Cole pre-pare to have their temperatures checked prior to entering their classes at Williams Elementary-Middle School. Students returned to in-person instruction Aug. 17. (Loretta McKenney/WGCN)

PHOENIX — Coconino County has met the benchmarks for returning to in-person classes state health officials announced.

The county was cleared Sept. 3 to tran-sition its schools to some form of in-per-son learning after recent coronavirus data showed improvements.

The state Department of Health Services announced that eight of Arizona’s 15 counties now meet the benchmarks required to do a hybrid of remote and in-person instruction if they choose to. They include Maricopa and Pima counties. Meanwhile, Greenlee and La Paz counties, which are more rural, got the green light to switch to full-time, in-person classes.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, however, urged caution as school districts consider whether to make the switch.

“As we saw at the end of spring and throughout the summer, COVID-19 can spread very quickly when we fail to adhere to essential mitigation strategies like wearing masks and practicing social distancing,” Hoffman said in a statement.

Under an executive order issued by Gov. Doug Ducey in June, there are three key criteria that counties need to fulfill for schools to offer hybrid instruction. A county must have a decline in new cases or a rate of less than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in a two-week period. In that same time frame, a county must also show a test positivity rate below 7 percent and hospital visits for COVID-19-like illness are below 10 percent.

Greenlee and La Paz counties demonstrated figures low enough to be categorized as having minimal community spread.

Arizona health officials Sept. 3 report-ed 1,091 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases with 65 additional deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 203,953 cases and 5,130 deaths.

It was the first time in three weeks that the Department of Health Services reported over 1,000 additional cases. The agency reported 1,351 on Aug. 13.

Arizona was a national hot spot in June and July, with cases and deaths trending downward since.

Seven-day rolling averages for daily new cases and daily deaths report-ed statewide continued to decrease through Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press.

The rolling average of new cases went from 873 on Aug. 19 to 486 on

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