Education officials call on Arizona school districts for more COVID-19 transparency

Two Phoenix-area high schools reported COVID-19 outbreaks on campus the week of Monday, Sept. 28.

This comes as Arizona's state superintendent of education is calling on school districts to be more transparent with the community about COVID-19 activity on school campuses.

The two high schools that just announced outbreaks are Mountain View High School in Mesa and Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek.

State health officials define an outbreak as “two or more positive COVID-19 cases among students or staff on campus within a 14-day period, the cases cannot come from the same household.”

Four students at each campus are confirmed as positive cases of COVID-19. At Cactus Shadows, the entire varsity football team is under quarantine.

Parents of students received letters from school officials alerting them of the outbreaks. Schools are required to notify parents and report it to public health officials as well.

County health officials investigate each case and conduct contact tracing. At Cactus Shadows, officials say 58 students have been told to quarantine, that's including the entire varsity high school football team.

“Finding cases is a good thing, not a bad thing," says Will Humble with the Arizona Public Health Association and former director of Arizona's Department of Health Services.

Advocates say schools with good surveillance systems and mitigation measures in place will likely find COVID-19 cases on campus.

"It’s kind of contradictory in a way because you say, well this school found cases. That means they found them, that’s a good thing. What did they do to prevent additional cases, what did they do for contact tracing? Those are the questions to ask," Humble explains.

According to Maricopa County health officials, since August, there have been COVID-19 outbreaks at 11 different schools, a total of 46 people have tested positive, the majority of them are students.

The state’s superintendent of schools, Kathy Hoffman, is calling on districts for transparency and promptly alerting parents of cases, saying, “And while we can’t control every rumor that goes through a school, we, as school leaders, should prioritize consistent and transparent communication,"

Although public health officials keep track of COVID-19 outbreaks on school campuses, it will not name the schools with outbreaks. It’s up to school district officials to notify parents, guardians, and staff directly of any campus outbreaks.