MARICOPA COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Maricopa County’s top health official described how her team is helping school leaders make informed decisions about opening their classrooms amid a pandemic. But she stressed that teachers and staff must be protected.

Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine said Wednesday studies show young students might not experience many COVID-19 symptoms, but that doesn’t mean they can’t spread the virus.“The staff and the teachers that are in schools, they are adults that are more likely to have severe illness,” said Sunenshine. “You want to make sure they are protected.”

Sunenshine said her team can’t tell school districts what to do, but they can provide the latest COVID-19 data and help individual schools create an environment that minimizes the spread of the virus.

Sunenshine said a student or teacher experiencing Covid-19 symptoms would be removed from class, evaluated by a health aide or nurse wearing full PPE, and sent home. Then, Sunenshine said, public health officials will create a list of individuals who had close contact with that person.

“Those people who are considered close contacts will be notified of their exposure and be given instructions on how to quarantine,” said Sunenshine.

School leaders have questioned the sustainability of opening school for in-person instruction. Dr. Sunenshine discussed the possibility of shutting down a school if there’s enough infection.

“It depends on the percent of students that are absent, the percent of students that are having symptoms, what type of exposure there was and what community transmission looks like,” said Sunenshine. “That really would be on a case-by-case basis."

The county is providing PPE starter kits to schools that include a thermometer, 50 surgical masks, 100 pairs of gloves, 10 face shields, and 15 gowns. Once that runs out, schools will have to find more supplies on their own.

 

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