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Az teachers union calls for student strike over coronavirus concerns

Students should stay home from school until Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona education and political leaders "can present a detailed plan that assures students will be returning to safe classrooms" during the COVID-19 outbreak, the state teachers union said.

The Arizona Education Association sent a letter to Ducey on Sunday, calling for "students to remain home" and for the governor to call a special session of the Legislature "to swiftly and directly address this unanticipated crisis."

"We also call on the governor to arrange for a meeting of state education and health leaders to work collectively to ensure the safety of Arizona families," wrote Joe Thomas, president of the union.

'A long-term closure of schools in Arizona is inevitable'

The AEA statement followed a call Saturday by Supt. Gabriel Trujillo of Tucson Unified School District and more than 50 other K-12 leaders from around the state in asking officials to respond to "essential recommendations that will be necessary for Arizona — our students, our school systems, our communities, and our economy — to survive the unavoidable shutdown."

"A long-term closure of schools in Arizona is inevitable" due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said the group of school superintendents, asking for the state to adopt a "clear plan" for budget and educational impacts of the virus.

The teachers union went a step further, calling for families to keep their children out of school until Arizona leaders create a clear coronavirus plan.

"The potential for community spread of COVID-19 virus in our neighborhood schools has caused severe anxiety among parents, educators and our students. Therefore, the Arizona Education Association is calling for students to remain home from school until education leaders and state policymakers can present a detailed plan of support that assures students will be returning to safe classrooms and healthy school sites," Thomas said.

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"Education leaders and policymakers must work together to fully understand whether our current state mandates and policies put our students and educators in harm's way," he wrote. "It has been reported that concern around the COVID-19 virus has the Legislature intending to finish the year abruptly. We believe legislative leaders need to remain in session until they provide for the statutory flexibility and financial support schools will require to keep our students and employees safe."

"The primary concern we all share is the health, safety, and welfare of students, families, and educators, as well as the health and safety of the broader community. District leaders and staff must be able to guarantee re-opening schools in a way that is safe for everyone involved," the letter said.

"While any school closure can be disruptive, it is reckless to pretend we are sending our teachers, staff, and students into safe environments Monday morning," the union head said. "Arizona needs time to assess how healthy our schools can be and what the rest of the school year will look like for our students. We must act now for all our safety."

3rd Pima County coronavirus case confirmed

A third person in Pima County has been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, officials said Sunday morning.

The person, described as an "older adult," is recovering in an area hospital, officials said.

As of Sunday morning, Arizona state health officials report 12 other positive cases, mostly in Maricopa and Pinal counties.

As of Sunday morning, 183 people in Arizona have been tested for COVID-19 — the novel coronavirus that was first diagnosed in people late last year — with 12 confirmed positive cases and and the new "presumptive positive" Pima case the only ones in the state. Another 50 tests were pending results, and 121 people have been ruled out, officials said.

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Mara Friedman/Cronkite News

The lunchroom of Santa Clara Elementary in Sunnyside school district, 2019.

Preventing the spread of coronavirus

From the Pima County Health Department: COVID-19 spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms are thought to appear within 2 to 14 days after exposure and consist of fever, cough, runny nose, or difficulty breathing. Those considered at highest risk for contracting the virus are individuals with travel to an area where the virus is spreading, or individuals in close contact with a person who is diagnosed as having COVID-19.

The best ways to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, are to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Public health officials advise residents that flu and other respiratory diseases are circulating in the community, and are recommending everyone get a flu shot and follow basic prevention guidelines.

If you have recently traveled to an area where COVID-19 is circulating, and have developed fever with cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of your travel, or have had contact with someone who is suspected to have 2019 novel coronavirus, please stay home. Most people with COVID-19 develop mild symptoms. If you have mild symptoms, please do not seek medical care, but do stay home and practice social distancing from others in the household where possible. If you do have shortness of breath or more severe symptoms, please call your health care provider to get instructions before arriving.