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FLORENCE — New state funding will help Pinal County health personnel respond to schools affected by COVID-19. A separate grant will help the county work to reduce a high rate of sexually transmitted diseases.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, sitting as the Pinal County Public Health Services District board, approved a grant application for $1,872,078 from the Arizona Department of Health Services for working in partnership with K-12 schools affected by the pandemic.

Pinal County Health Director Tascha Spears said this funding is assigned to each county based on population. Assistance can include food boxes, behavioral health and other emotional support. There’s also a small amount for sheltering teachers who were exposed to the coronavirus and chose not to go home and expose their families.

The board also approved another ADHS grant of $40,267 to pay for personnel, travel and other expenses related to sexually transmitted disease control. Pinal County will use the grant to help pay for a third infectious diseases team member.

“Over the past year we have seen an increase in sexually transmitted infections in our county,” and the grant will help pay the salary of a person who investigates syphilis cases, Spears told the board.

The county has seen “a tremendous increase” in syphilis and other STDs this year over the previous calendar year, and there are still three months left in this year, Spears said. “Extremely troubling,” she continued, is babies born with syphilis, “and we’ve already doubled that number from last year, and again we’re only in October,” Spears told the board. The county also has a high rate of chlamydia, with 1,367 cases.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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