Dr. Cara Christ

Dr. Cara Christ recommends families move Thanksgiving celebrations outdoors.

The state’s top education official said recently a new spike in COVID-19 will force local schools into the “impossible decision” of whether to shut their doors to in-person learning to prevent students and teachers from getting sick.

“Without serious changes from us, the adults making daily choices that determine the virus’ path, we cannot expect these numbers to head in a safe direction,” Kathy Hoffman said.

But state Health Director Cara Christ, while making multiple suggestions for dealing with the spread of the disease, said she’s not prepared to recommend new restrictions on individual and business activities.

“We continue to monitor the data on a daily basis,” she said. Christ noted the state was approaching 260,000 confirmed cases of the virus (the number since topped 275,000).

More significant, she said, 9% of the tests recently came back positive. Christ said there has been an increase in the number of people showing up in hospitals with COVID-19-like symptoms.

That, in turn, affects the question of whether students learn in class, online or a combination of both. Hoffman said these are not equivalent.

“When our schools close to in-person instruction, it is devastating to our communities,” she said.

“Parents are thrown in flux as they try to decide the best model for distance learning, whether at home or at an on-site learning center,” Hoffman continued. “Educators must adapt quickly, transitioning from in-person and hybrid to distance learning.

Christ had recommendations for what families should be doing this Thanksgiving to prevent these traditional family gatherings from turning into spreader events.

It starts, she said, with moving celebrations outside or to a local park.

If that can’t happen, Christ said “create spaces” indoors so people can distance from one another, open doors and windows for better ventilation, and reduce the number of people gathered around the table.

“And consider celebrating virtually with your college-age students or your higher-risk and elderly relatives,” she said.

On Nov. 16, Maricopa County Department of Public Health released results from a “serosurvey” conducted across the county. 

The study shows an estimated 10.7% of residents have detectable antibodies for COVID-19. “This means that approximately 470,000 people in Maricopa County (estimated population of 4.2 million) likely have been infected with the virus since the pandemic began, an amount far less than needed to reach herd immunity so the virus won’t spread effectively,” a county press release stated.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 continues to be widespread, with the county reporting 2,990 new cases Tuesday, Nov. 17. In the county, more than 3,800 people have died from COVID-19, with the state reporting more than 6,300 deaths from the disease caused by coronavirus.