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Arizona health department directs schools to enforce mask requirements

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Health Services on Thursday issued an emergency measure to increase enforcement of face mask requirements in K-12 schools.

The measure signed by Dr. Cara Christ, the department’s director, says: “Each school district and charter school shall immediately mandate that masks are worn on school campus, on school buses, during school-associated activities, and while participating in or observing an school-associated athletic activities by all students, faculty, staff, contractors and visitors.”

It also lists exceptions to the mandate, including for when students can adequately socially distance while outside and during high-intensity activity like running if the mask causes breathing difficulty.

“ADHS and local health departments may take immediate action for operation in violation of this emergency measure,” says the measure, which will remain in effect not more than 18 months.

In July, Gov. Doug Ducey issued a back-to-school executive order that, in part, directed schools to develop and implement face covering requirements.

“Keeping kids and teachers safe is one of our top priorities,” Ducey said in a press release announcing Thursday’s order, which fortifies the July directive.

“This emergency measure issued by ADHS addresses the serious threat COVID-19 poses to our communities. It requires schools to implement the simple step of mask-wearing to reduce transmission and keep our kids safe.”

During a press conference Wednesday, Ducey said the school order would be coming. However, he did not change the statewide policy on mask use.

Ducey has given local governments the authority to require masks to be worn in public but has resisted calls to implement a statewide mandate.

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