The Arizona Department of Health Services erroneously reported Sunday Graham County has met two of the three benchmarks recommended prior to opening schools.

In fact, Graham County has only met one of the three benchmarks, said Graham County Health Department Director Brian Douglas.

Holly Poynter, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Health Services, said in an email sent Wednesday that the “schools’ dashboard was updated early in error.”

Douglas said he realized there was a problem with graphics posted on the state health department’s website Sunday.

Not only were the conclusions drawn incorrect, but so were the numbers, he said.

Douglas said he was told that graphics were part of a “new product” launched by the state and they needed a couple of days to correct the issues.

The state issued guidelines Thursday as to when it would be safe for schools to reopen.

The Arizona State Health Department would like to see the following metrics met:

•The number of people showing up at local hospitals with COVID-like symptoms is less than 10 percent of all visits;

•A rate of infection drops below 100 cases for every 100,000 residents OR a decline in the weekly average in the number of cases for two consecutive weeks, even if the infection rate tops 100 per 100,000.

•Fewer than 7 percent of area residents tested for COVID-19 test positive for the virus;

On Sunday, the state’s website indicated Graham County had met the first two benchmarks. Between Sunday and Monday night, the website replaced the graphics with graphics indicating the county had only met one of the benchmarks. Sunday’s graphics indicated the data was through the week of July 26; the latest graphics indicate the data is through July 19.

The hospital benchmark is also the only one Graham County has met, Douglas said. The data shows that the number of people showing up at hospitals in Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Cochise and Santa Cruz counties with COVID-19 symptoms has been dropping since July 12. On July 19, only 6.1 percent of the patients arriving at hospitals in that region had virus-like symptoms, well below the 10 percent benchmark set, he said.

As for the other benchmarks, Douglas said the county is headed in the right direction.

The state health department also changed Greenlee County’s graphics. Both sets of graphics indicate Greenlee County has only met the hospital benchmark, however.

Douglas met separately with area school superintendents and the Safford City Council Monday.

The superintendents were expected to take the numbers he provided them and present them to their respective school boards Thursday to help them decide if and when schools should open for in-person instruction, Douglas said.

At least one superintendent, Sean Rickert from Pima Unified School District, said he intended to ask board members to open schools Monday, Aug. 17.

“They have all of these plans in place,” Douglas said. “They’ve been working hard all summer and now it’s just a matter of implementing them.”

The health director told council members “Our COVID-19 situation is looking better” and attributed it, at least in part, to a recent proclamation urging everyone to wear masks.

Douglas said test results are now coming back within three to four days rather than the seven to 10 days it was taking last month.

Health officials believe a vaccine may be ready by the end of the year, he said.

Graham County already has 40,000 syringes, bandages and alcohol wipes on hand for mass vaccinations, Douglas said.

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