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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey not ordering statewide mask mandate

PHOENIX – Arizona is not joining the 30-plus states with face mask mandates, including several recently enacted by GOP governors who reversed their stance on the issue with the coronavirus surging in many parts of the country.

During his first public press conference since Oct. 29, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday expressed satisfaction with leaving mask decisions in the hands of local officials.

While Ducey, a Republican, won’t legally force the issue from the top, he continued to strongly encourage mask wearing to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“Arizonans should wear a mask any time they will be around other people who do not live in their household,” he said.

“Nearly 90% of the state is under a local mask mandate, and statewide masks are required in restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and more.”

Democratic leaders such as U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, however, have been publicly calling for a blanket mask requirement to replace the state’s piecemeal legislation.

Even President-elect Joe Biden called out Ducey on the matter during his campaign in October.

Ducey’s press conference was still going on Wednesday when Gallego posted a video to social media expressing her disappointment.

Ducey also came under Democratic pressure on the issue before he gave local municipalities authority to enact mask requirements in June. Until then, he kept all power to make pandemic-related regulations to himself.

Communities in most of the state imposed mandates that varied slightly from city to city and county to county, but some orders have since been lifted or allowed to expire.

People in the Phoenix area remain under the jurisdiction of Maricopa County’s mandate.

Key pandemic metrics have been rising in Arizona over the last month-plus at rates not seen since the first wave hit in June and July.

The state’s weekly percent positivity for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, an indicator of how much the virus is spreading regardless of how many tests are given, has reached its highest level in four months, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in Arizona have climbed to levels not seen since August and have doubled since late October. The rolling seven-day average for the newly reported cases also has doubled since late October.

Despite conflicting messages early in the pandemic, health experts have generally come to the agreement that surgical or cloth masks that cover the face and nose can help prevent the spread of coronavirus, especially when combined with staying home while sick, keeping at least 6 feet from people outside your household and washing hands frequently.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long advised people to wear masks because they help prevent people who are infected — whether they know it or not — from spreading the coronavirus.

But last week, the CDC added a new reason: Masks can also protect wearers who are not infected, though to a lesser degree.

But when both people are wearing masks, that produced the best result. The decline in virus particles reaching the second person was close to 70%.

“We know now that masks provide more protection than previously thought,” Arizona Health Director Dr. Cara Christ said during the press conference.

“The new studies recently show that wearing a mask can also protect you from the infectious droplets of other people.”

Like Ducey, Christ implored Arizonans to mask up when around others outside their households.

“I can’t stress this enough,” she said. “We recommend that all Arizonans wear masks in every setting, including public settings, public transportation, at indoor and outdoor events, gatherings and in private settings.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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