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Arizona education chief: Show kindness to ease coronavirus burdens

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathleen Hoffman, in an op-ed published Saturday, Dec. 26 in the Arizona Republic newspaper, urged Arizonans to show empathy to others during the pandemic. (File photo by Howard Fischer/For the Miner)

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathleen Hoffman, in an op-ed published Saturday, Dec. 26 in the Arizona Republic newspaper, urged Arizonans to show empathy to others during the pandemic. (File photo by Howard Fischer/For the Miner)

PHOENIX – Arizona residents should show empathy and kindness to help ease each other's burdens in the face of the pandemic and other troubles, the state's top education official said.

Economic and social hardships encounterd by many people in 2020 left them exhausted, isolated and frustrated, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman wrote in a commentary published Saturday by the Arizona Republic.

“Act as if the person you are speaking with just lost a job, a home, a loved one, a future. Act as if they are scared, or lonely, or tired to their bones,” Hoffman wrote.

In education, teachers faced challenges getting the internet to work for their students and their own children, while school board members were worn down by painful decisions amid concerns about the well-being of students, Hoffman wrote.

Meanwhile, she noted, Arizona's pandemic death toll has topped 8,000 people. “Each loss represents a valued member of our communities, and in some cases, our schools," she wrote.

The state on Saturday reported more than 5,000 additional known COVID-19 cases for the 10th straight day, as the surge put a pandemic-high number of virus patients in intensive care beds across the state.

Hoffman shared that the pandemic has affected her personal life, including when COVID-19 mitigation strategies meant she couldn't be with her father when he was hospitalized for acute heart failure and then had a successful heart transplant.

“But maybe the hardest moment of this year came in the spring as I sat alone in my doctor’s office, receiving the news that my first pregnancy was ending after just eight weeks," she wrote.

Also because of virus mitigation measures, her husband couldn't be at her side when she heard that news, “I became one of the many Americans who learned to cope with loss in isolation, sharing our heartbreak over text messages and calls instead," she said.

In the face of such difficulties, “an opportunity exists for all of us to lead with empathy and kindness as we try to ease each other’s burdens," Hoffman wrote.

“So, I ask you, my fellow Arizonans, as I will ask of myself, that you treat others how you wish you were treated and cared for at your lowest moment in 2020," Hoffman added.

The state Department of Health Services on Saturday reported 6,106 additional known cases and 15 more deaths, increasing the state's totals to 493,041 cases and 8,424 deaths.

The 983 COVID-19 patients in intensive care beds on Friday occupied 55% of all such beds in the state. Only 9% of ICU beds were available and not in use, according to the state's coronavirus dashboard.

The total number of COVID-19 patients dropped to 4,165, down from a pandemic-high of 4,226 on Thursday, according to the dashboard.

Arizona has the third-worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate in the nation over the past week, behind California and Tennessee. The rate is calculated by dividing the state's total population by the number of patients.

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