Healthcare, public education leaders, and pediatricians agree, kids learn best in their classrooms – and until we are fully on the other side of this pandemic, we must take every necessary precaution to protect student health and safety in those classrooms and ensure minimal disruption to learning.
We have serious work ahead of us to help students recover from the last two disrupted school years safely, and we owe it to our students to provide them with a school year that helps them recover educationally as well as emotionally.
While we know that learning and growing have not stopped, many students will need additional support and resources this year to accelerate their learning and address their mental health needs.
“Just a few weeks into the 2021-2022 school year, I am highly concerned about yet another school year disrupted by COVID-19. All summer, our schools prepared to welcome back their students after a difficult year marked by instability and loss. Now, because of decisions made by politicians, not public health experts, Arizona is facing another deadly surge of COVID-19 fueled by the more contagious Delta variant,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.
“Without the ability to mandate masks at a local level or a more robust and effective statewide campaign to promote and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, the academic, social, and emotional well-being of Arizona’s students are in jeopardy. If we proudly call Arizona home, then we have a responsibility to step up and do all we can to slow the spread of COVID-19 before it further impacts the education and health of our students,” Supt. Hoffman said.
“We have unfortunately returned to familiar territory where our hospitals are either at, nearing or overcapacity,” said Ann-Marie Alameddin, President and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.
“Having available healthcare staff to cover what is becoming a limited amount of available hospital beds is our challenge as more and more patients come to the hospital for critical care. Reducing community spread with proven public health interventions is key—wear masks in public, including schools and get vaccinated,” Alameddin said.
“We all had hoped that the COVID-19 risk would be eliminated by now. Unfortunately, stalled vaccination rates and the high prevalence of the more contagious Delta variant in Arizona mean that there is still a substantial risk of COVID-19 infection in our state. In fact, an alarming increase in the proportion of cases and hospitalizations are occurring in young adults and children,” said Arizona Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics President, Dr. Jason Vargas.
“To protect our children and their families, AzAAP recommends that all students and school staff wear face masks indoors. Universal masking in the school setting has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of COVID-19 so that schools can safely deliver face-to-face education for children and adults, even when social distancing is difficult,” Dr. Vargas said.
Every Arizonan is encouraged to follow recommendations from public health officials and medical experts to ensure safe, in-person learning all year long. Particularly for our youngest
learners who have not yet had an opportunity to get vaccinated, wearing a mask is a simple way to continue to protect Arizona’s children.
This has been a long and tremendously hard road, but we will eventually put the dangers and restrictions of COVID-19 behind us. Until then, healthcare leaders and public education officials are pleading with every Arizonan to do their part in protecting our most vulnerable and unvaccinated students.
Arizona’s children have suffered academically, physically, and emotionally during this pandemic. They need to return to in-person learning to recover. With safety precautions, they will be able to do so for the entire school year, but this is a community effort.
Equity for all students to achieve their full potential. This is the guiding vision of the Arizona Department of Education — the state agency tasked with overseeing Arizona’s K-12 public education system. Our department, led by a publicly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, is comprised of more than 600 staff across four state offices working to serve Arizona’s students, families, educators, and school communities.
About Arizona Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics
The AzAAP is the state’s leading professional pediatric organization dedicated to promoting the physical, mental and social health and well-being of every Arizona child. Representing more than 1,100 health care professionals including pediatricians, nurses, dentists, psychiatrists, hospital administrators and other allied health practitioners, AzAAP aspires to the highest standards in providing the latest evidence-based and current recommended guidelines to its members. AzAAP also works year-round to educate and engage lawmakers, parents, school professionals, community caregivers and all who impact the lives of children with the goal of fostering a statewide focus on promoting child health preventive care and wellness. For more information, call 602.532.0137 ext. 402 or visit www.azaap.org.
About the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association
AzHHA is the association giving Arizona hospitals a voice to collectively build better healthcare and health for Arizonans. As the champion for healthcare leadership in Arizona, AzHHA and its member hospitals explore ideas and take collaborative action at the state capitol, in hospitals and at home to attain the best healthcare outcomes for our community. Above all else, we put people and patients first through Better Care, Better Health and Lower Costs. Visit https://www.azhha.org for more information.