(The Center Square) – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has removed any requirement that schools in the state need to keep their kids masked while in class, but many districts are continuing the requirement.
The governor issued the order from last July to be rescinded in light of broad availability of the COVID-19 vaccine and reduced spread of the coronavirus.
“Nearly 2 million Arizonans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with many teachers and school faculty now fully vaccinated after being some of the first in line for vaccine prioritization,” Ducey said. “Teachers, families and students have acted responsibly to mitigate the spread of the virus and protect one another, and our school leaders are ready to decide if masks should be required on their campuses.”
Ducey said his administration would continue to work with public health professionals and Arizona’s schools as more students return to the classroom.
“Across the state, almost 4.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered,” Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ said. “Many families and communities are further protected from COVID-19, and our schools are ready to decide their next steps when it comes to masks. We encourage all Arizonans to get the vaccine – it’s safe, effective and absolutely free to the public.”
AZDHS reported 702 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, attributing 40 new deaths to the disease.
Arizona schools Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat, responded to the Republican governor rescinding the school mask mandate, calling the move “abrupt.”
“Children under 16 are still ineligible for COVID-19 vaccines and [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] still recommends universal masking in public schools to ensure safe learning environments,” she said.
Hoffman seemed to suggest schools ignore Ducey’s order.
“While vaccines hold the promise of a return to normalcy, letting up on other mitigation strategies now just increases risk of transmission at a time when we should be doing everything possible to keep students and their families safe,” she said.
School districts and charter schools are able to keep policies to mitigate COVID-19 spread, including the use of masks.
Several school districts, including one in Mesa, Glendale, Scottsdale, Peoria and elsewhere, have expressed they would not be allowing maskless students in their schools at this time.