SAN TAN VALLEY — Pinal County health officials decided to close San Tan Foothills High School for more than a week after a “cluster” of COVID-19 cases was identified at the school.
The closure, which began Monday, will last until at least Wednesday, Oct. 21, according to the Pinal County Health Department.
Due to the outbreak, San Tan Foothills has suspended all in-person instruction and school activities, including athletics, through the closure.
“Therefore, all games are either being rescheduled or canceled until further notice,” Florence Unified School District athletic director Jeff Cox said in an email to PinalCentral.
The San Tan Foothills football team will not play its scheduled game against Safford on Friday, and it appears unlikely the Sabercats will play their Oct. 23 contest against Florence. Cox said the district is “working on” its options regarding schedule changes.
In a news release, the health department said a cluster was identified at the school last week. With the school’s help, new cases and potential exposures were determined late on Friday.
On Monday the health department reported only 52 new COVID-19 cases in Pinal County, but 27 of those were in San Tan Valley.
Health officials have been working closely with the school and the Florence Unified School District to evaluate the extent of the potential spread.
“After careful consideration, Pinal County Public Health has deemed the school’s onsite closure to begin contact tracing and quarantine as the most critical public health interventions to control an outbreak,” the news release said.
The school district said the decision by the health department was made due to the number of students and staff that are required to self-quarantine and not the number of positive cases reported.
Public Health staff will continue to work closely with the school, and San Tan Foothills High School staff and students who may have been exposed will be contacted and asked to quarantine for 14 days from their last exposure. The last known exposure was Oct. 7. Should new school exposures be identified after that date, the closure may be extended, officials said.
“The decision to close the school has not been taken lightly, but the primary mission of a Public Health Department is to protect the health of the community, and Pinal County Public Health believes closing onsite learning and activities at the school to be the most appropriate step in order to contain and stop the spread as quickly as possible,” the department said in the release.
Once positive cases are reported to the school, the Pinal County Health Department is notified. The health department then contacts the individual(s) who tested positive and confirms anyone they have been in close contact with or who may have been exposed.
“Through this process, it is important to understand that the Pinal County Health Department in coordination with FUSD will notify those individuals and provide direction and necessary safety precautions going forward,” FUSD said in a release. “Once the district is notified of a confirmed case(s), we will follow the guidance of the health department regarding isolation and/or quarantine protocols.
Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. For COVID-19, this means staying home or in a private room with a private bathroom for 14 days after last contact with a person who has COVID-19.
Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.