Arizona Announces Statewide School Closures As Coronavirus Cases Reach 13

March 16, 2020 Updated: March 16, 2020

Arizona on Sunday announced a statewide closure of schools from Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27, due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

Governor Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman made the announcement in an open letter accompanied by a video message to Arizona families, educators, school leaders, and education community members on March 15.

Ducey and Hoffman wrote that “the health and safety of all our students is our top priority,” and added that they will work with public health officials to reassess needs for school closures and provide assistance.

“Throughout the weekend, we’ve been in touch with education leaders,” Hoffman said in the video. “During those discussions, we’ve heard concerns from school administrators about staffing and potential absences. Because of that, we are announcing a statewide closure of all Arizona schools from Monday March 16, 2020 through Friday, March 27, 2020.”

Ducey added that the decision to close schools was “not made lightly,” but that it was “the right thing to do to bring certainty and consistency to Arizona schools.”

The Governor’s office and the Department of Education are currently working to implement protocols to help minimize the impact of the closure for Arizona children during this time, including access to healthcare, nutritional meals, and sanitary precautions schools can take upon reopening.

The open letter noted that school administrators should make every effort to provide continued education learning opportunities through online resources or materials that can be sent home, and should develop a plan to continue breakfast and lunch services for Arizona students.

“As demand rises on healthcare professionals and first responders, schools should expand child care programs currently available to ensure minimal disruption to these critical jobs as a result of the school closure,” the letter said, adding that “school administrators should develop and implement precautions to ensure schools are a safe learning environment,” when school resumes.

These precautions include social distancing measures, regular intervals for administrators to wash and sanitize their hands, and guidance on how to properly and frequently sanitize election equipment and common surfaces.

As of March 15, Arizona had 12 positive cases of COVID-19, and was pending results from 50 tests. A total of 183 people had been tested for the disease, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. However, the Pima County Health Department announced its third presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Pima County on Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 13.

Health department officials said the individual is an older adult and is currently recovering in an area hospital. They are working to identify anyone who may have come into close contact with the individual.

The case marks the first positive result in Pima County as a result of commercial testing performed by a private laboratory, and a sample also will be sent to the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory for confirmation, officials added.