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Arizona Gov. Ducey rescinds order requiring masks in schools

(Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday rescinded an order that directed K-12 schools to require masks, citing high vaccine totals among teachers and faculty.

As part of the rescinded order, K-12 school districts and charter schools will still have the right institute and enforce policies — such as requiring masks — to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“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 in a press release.

“We will continue to work with public health professionals and Arizona’s schools as more students return to the classroom and our state moves forward.”

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

COVID-19 schools restrictions have loosened in the past couple months as vaccinations have increased and cases have declined.

K-12 school staff were part of Phase 1B of Arizona’s vaccine rollout plan, with eligibility in most counties opening in January.

Arizona schools chief Kathy Hoffman disagreed with Ducey’s move, calling it an “embarrassing response.”

“Today’s announcement destabilizes school communities as they end what has arguably been the most challenging year for education,” Hoffman said in a statement. “I encourage school leaders and board members to work with their communities to make transparent, evidence-based decisions that build trust in the safety of our schools.”

Ducey said Arizona is still encouraging schools to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“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,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said in the release.

“We encourage all Arizonans to get the vaccine — it’s safe, effective and absolutely free to the public.”

ADHS’ Monday morning dashboard update showed that 4,495,519 vaccine doses have been administered in the state, with 2,736,235 people (38.1% of the state’s population) having received at least one shot and 1,926,181 people fully vaccinated.

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