In an open letter, physicians and other healthcare providers in Arizona are asking Gov. Doug Ducey (R) to shut down schools for the first quarter of the upcoming school year.
Stephen Kessler, MD, and Gladys Martin, MD, who have school-age children in Phoenix, authored the letter on July 12. As of Monday morning, 85 additional healthcare professionals, mostly MDs, had added their names.
Arizona has already delayed reopening schools until Aug. 17 — the state’s school year technically began July 1 — but signatories believe that’s not long enough.
“We share a common concern: that the tremendous pressure to return to in-person schooling in August is ill-advised and dangerous given the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in our community,” according to the letter.
“It is undeniable that Arizona is in a phase of substantial community spread of the virus,” the letter continues. “Regardless of the metrics being compared, we are currently among the worst-hit regions in the country, as well as the world.”
“It took New York months to control a similar outbreak of COVID-19, and that was with the benefit of strict stay-at-home orders. The measures currently implemented in Arizona fall well short of those mandates, and, at best, we should expect to see substantial community spread for at least the next few months.”
Kessler and Martin note that the literature on whether children transmit the disease is “very limited and sometimes conflicting.”
They point to the Arizona Department of Education’s “Roadmap for Reopening Schools” which calls for remote learning when there’s substantial spread, as well as an open letter from state school board members who also want schools to close for the first quarter.
Announcing the cancellation should be done immediately so that teachers can start preparing now: “Any delay in announcing this closure will come at the expense of our children’s education,” the letter states.
The letter calls on the state to develop “concrete, evidence-based metrics” to determine when it’s safe to reopen schools, and to indicate when schools must re-close.
Additionally, Gov. Ducey should fund schools fully whether they reopen for in-person learning or not, the letter argued; in a June 29 order, the governor warned of funding cuts for schools that don’t offer in-person learning five days per week.
Signatories also want state officials to work with other leaders to petition the federal government to make sure that schools that can’t open “due to local COVID-19 conditions” can still access the same CARES Act and other federal funding as school districts that can reopen.
Gov. Ducey has stated that he would feel comfortable sending his kids to school next month, as has Cara Christ, MD, director of the state’s Department of Health Services.
“Kids are at low risk of transmission and outcomes,” Christ said during a press conference last week. “I have noticed other detrimental impacts from my kids not being in school.”
Last Updated July 20, 2020