TUCSON (KVOA) - Gov. Doug Ducey declared that Arizona will continue to not allow mask mandates on Tuesday in light of the Centers for Disease Control Prevention's recent reversal of its guidelines for indoor mask use in response to the rising COVID-19 cases across the country.
Back in March, Ducey pulled back all of Arizona's COVID-19 mitigation measures as COVID-19 cases began to drop and vaccination rates in the state steadily increased. These efforts included an executive order that phased out all mask mandates implemented by local governments, including the ones put in place by both the City of Tucson and Pima County in June.
The governor also signed House Bill 2770 - allowing businesses in Arizona to not be required to enforce any mask mandates - and House Bill 2898 - preventing schools to implement any mask mandate for their staff and students. In addition, he issued an executive order in June, blocking several school policies that required COVID-19 vaccinations, regular COVID-19 testing or mask-wearing for students and staff.
During this timeframe, the CDC initially recommended that people who were fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks or stay six feet away from others in most settings. However, on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that due to a drastic rise in COVID-19 cases and "new information obtained about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated people," the CDC changed course and said all people, including those who are vaccinated, should return to wearing masks indoors, especially in areas where the virus is seeing a resurgence.
"The CDC today is recommending that we wear masks in school and indoors, regardless of our vaccination status," Ducey said in a press release on Tuesday. "This is just another example of the Biden-Harris administration’s inability to effectively confront the COVID-19 pandemic."
Here in Arizona, state health officials have been reporting a significant climb in virus cases over the last few weeks, seeing 1,475 new COVID-19 cases and 12 more deaths on Tuesday alone.
This brought the overall state totals to 920,084 cases and 18,183 deaths.
"Arizona does not allow mask mandates, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports or discrimination in schools based on who is or isn’t vaccinated," the governor said. "We’ve passed all of this into law, and it will not change."
The AP also reported since March, 98 percent of deaths and 95 percent of hospitalization in the state were people who were not fully vaccinated.
"Public health officials in Arizona and across the country have made it clear that the best protection against COVID-19 is the vaccine," Ducey said. "Today’s announcement by the CDC will unfortunately only diminish confidence in the vaccine and create more challenges for public health officials 一 people who have worked tirelessly to increase vaccination rates."
More than 6.7 million vaccine doses have been administered in Arizona at this time.
"Here in Arizona, we’ve been consistent from the beginning: Arizonans should get this vaccine. Over 51 percent of our population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and over 46 percent are fully vaccinated," the governor said. "That’s great news, and we’re going to continue to work to distribute this vaccine to Arizonans and build public confidence in its effectiveness, despite this unnecessary and unhelpful “guidance” from Washington, D.C."
Shortly after the CDC reversed its indoor mask guidelines, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman called for Ducey to follow the CDC's recommendations and return local decision-making authorities on policies for safe in-person instruction in a statement released Tuesday.
The CDC is once again recommending schools, teachers, and students wear a mask if attending in-person school regardless of vaccination status. We know masks work and with rising cases, they’re a vital part of our effort to reduce everyone’s COVID-19 risks.
I am calling on Governor Ducey to follow the guidance of public health experts and give schools back their local decision-making authority to set policies for safe in-person instruction. I encourage teachers, administrators, and families to listen to the CDC and take individual action to keep themselves and each other safe by wearing a mask during in-person school. Students, teachers, and parents are ready to get back to in-person learning, but it takes all of us.Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman
To learn more about the vaccination sites, visit azdhs.gov.
EDITOR'S NOTE: News 4 Tucson previously reported that Gov. Doug Ducey enacted an executive order that banned mask mandates for all schools and students. This order only applies to public universities and community colleges.