PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- Most Arizona counties now meet the benchmarks to start opening schools with hybrid instruction. According to a news release from the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS,) Maricopa and Pima Counties have joined Apache, Cochise, Coconino, Navajo, Pinal and Yavapai in meeting those benchmarks.

But with a holiday weekend upon us, one Valley doctor says Arizonans are going to have to continue wearing masks, physical distancing, etc,. so the state can avoid another big spike in COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Shad Marvasti, with the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, says schools in the state that are considering some form on in-person learning should be following public health guidelines to stop the spread of coronavirus. That includes proper ventilation, hand-washing and avoiding crowded hallways like we’ve seen in other parts of the country. Our numbers have improved, but we’re still not where we want to be, he said.

“Knowing the history of public health and how things have come to pass in terms of seat belts and helmets and public smoking rules, you really need to pass laws about these things to protect the public from themselves,” Dr. Marvasti said.

Hybrid learning

Dr. Marvasti hopes Arizonans won't make the same mistakes we did over Memorial Day weekend. "We've suffered through the summer not only from the heat,  but also from the pandemic. We're on the other side thankfully of the peak and the only way to keep going is to wear masks, keep distanced, and follow the public health guidelines," he added. 

As more businesses open, Dr. Marvasti says we'll see the impact in our coronavirus numbers in two to three weeks. The benchmarks set by state health officials are based on several factors including COVID-like illness numbers in the area.  

The state’s top doctor, Dr. Cara Christ, says statewide the Arizona Department of Health Services has reported a decrease in cases, among other numbers, but they continue to watch the data.

“We do expect that as we bring groups back together whether it’s universities, whether it’s school, we will see an increase in the cases because the virus gets transmitted when people are close together,” Dr. Christ said.

State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman urged communities to proceed with caution on Twitter, saying in part “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.”

The state benchmarks are just recommendations and it’s up to each individual district to make its own back to school plans. You can find your district here


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