Dr. Theresa Cullen, the director of the Pima County Health Department, issued a statement today in regards to the minimal community spread standards that differs from the Arizona Interscholastic Association benchmark and pointed out that her department does not decide on the fate of high school competition.
“The decisions to return to instruction or to resume athletic activities are appropriately and ultimately made by school boards and superintendents for each district,” she writes in a statement clarifying what was submitted in a letter to the AIA. “We will continue to support districts as they make those decisions and continue to provide guidance as requested.”
The PCHD is recommending that school districts adhere to the metric of 10 or less cases out of 100,000 people as established by the Arizona Department of Health Services to deem it safe for contact sports such as football to take place.
The AIA changed its metrics on Sept. 17 from the 10 or less mark to 75 or less out of 100,000 people. That change provided the opportunity for physical contact and competition for high school football in the state. Pima County is presently at 44 people out of 100,000 testing positive for COVID-19.
Cullen issued a recommendation Wednesday to the superintendents of Southern Arizona public schools that contact drills and competition should not take place until the spread of the disease has achieved the minimal levels of community transmission (10 or less out of 100,000 people).
Longtime Cienega coach Pat Nugent made a stand yesterday postponing practice until his players are allowed physical contact, which caused irate parents to call the Vail School District and superintendent John Carruth.
“Did we cancel the season? No,” Nugent said. “But we know the chance of us playing is one in a million. We do have a chance but it’s not a very good chance.”
Cullen’s statement issued by Pima County clarifying what was in a letter sent to the AIA:
“This week, as part of the ongoing conversations between PCHD, Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) leaders and local school officials to support their planning and ensure consistency with Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) guidance, Pima County and AIA officials met to discuss the difference between their guidelines and ADHS guidance. The result of those conversations was a finding that AIA’s guidelines were consistent with all aspects of the state’s original guidance except in regards to their definition of “minimal community spread”; the condition that would have to be met for the full resumption of contact sports.
“The definition of “minimal community spread” established by the Arizona Department of Health Services in their benchmark guidance for schools, the White House Corona Virus Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control is 10 cases/ 100,000 residents. We believe superintendents and school boards need to understand this critical difference as they consider the resumption of instructional and athletic activity in the midst of a pandemic.
“Contact sports like football, that require close interaction pose a risk for infection until community transmission is minimal. Non-contact athletic activity carries a much lower risk by comparison and many schools have already restarted this activity. Just this month student athletic teams in this county and throughout Arizona have experienced infections requiring the quarantine of large numbers of exposed children. This is the situation we are looking to avoid.
“Under the Governor’s Executive Order, county health departments are obliged to provide consultation to public school districts and public charter schools as they make plans to return to instruction and activities. The decisions to return to instruction or to resume athletic activities are appropriately and ultimately made by school boards and superintendents for each district. We will continue to support districts as they make those decisions and continue to provide guidance as requested.”