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Maricopa County encourages wearing masks in public as virus cases rise

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County public health officials are encouraging individuals to wear face masks in public as coronavirus cases in metro Phoenix rise at record rates.

The county has seen about 27% of its cases — or about 4,500 — reported in the past seven days.

County health officials have warned that increased case and hospitalization rates aren’t necessarily due to an increase in testing as the state reopens in the midst of the pandemic.

“Why we are pushing masks so hard is that we know individuals don’t want to go back to a stay-at-home order,” Marcy Flanagan, the county’s public health executive director, said Wednesday in a press conference. “We’ve heard that loud and clear.”

Flanagan and Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, the county’s medical director for public health, said wearing cloth face masks are important because they help mitigate the spread of the virus, which had infected 29,852 in Arizona as of Wednesday morning.

Currently, there is no guidance from the state of Arizona about wearing masks.

Sunenshine said the county is now requiring all employees to wear masks who can’t maintain six feet of distance.

Flanagan said the state was working on a mask campaign that was scheduled to be rolled out next week.

“There is a mounting body of scientific evidence that shows face masks can actually prevent COVID-19 from spreading,” Sunenshine said.

Gov. Doug Ducey has been steadfast that he and public health officials have taken the correct approach in handling the pandemic.

Ducey said Thursday during a press conference he wasn’t alarmed by apparently negative COVID-19 trends, which span more than just Maricopa County.

In a letter sent to hospitals on Saturday, Dr. Cara Christ, the state’s public health director, recommended hospitals “fully activate” their emergency plans as capacity continues to swell.

The state hasn’t been under a stay-at-home order since May 16.

“For the public, I understand this is not easy to see. It can be scary, it can be worrisome,” Flanagan said. “Are we doing enough, is public health doing enough, is the state doing enough?

“I can assure you that conversations happen almost daily between the state and the county.”

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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