ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona health director recommends face masks for kids returning to school

Jul 21, 2021, 11:45 AM | Updated: Jul 22, 2021, 8:09 am
(File Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)...
(File Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
(File Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – With classes resuming in Arizona and the COVID-19 delta variant surging, the state’s health director is recommending that unvaccinated students – including her own kids – wear face masks at school.

“Our recommendations at the department haven’t changed,” Christ told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday. “If you are unvaccinated, or you are at high risk for bad outcomes due to COVID, you should wear a mask whenever you are with people you don’t live with.”

The Arizona Department of Health Services director also encouraged mask-wearing for other situations.

“Even if you’re vaccinated and you’re going to be with people you don’t know their vaccination status, given delta, we would recommend that you wear a mask when you are out,” Christ said.

While most of the state’s schools don’t start their fall semester until early August, classes started Wednesday in Queen Creek and Chandler. The Higley Unified School District, which also adheres to a “year-round” schedule with a shorter summer break, begins Monday.

Christ said she has two kids who started school Wednesday and aren’t able to be vaccinated.

“They are wearing masks at school,” she said. “That’s what mom has told them they have to do.”

Christ’s preference doesn’t have the power of the law behind it, leaving families with final say on face coverings.

In April, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey rescinded an order that had directed K-12 public and charter schools to require masks. Then last month, the state budget was approved with a provision preventing local jurisdictions, including school boards, from mandating face masks or vaccines as a condition of participating in in-person instruction.

“This really is a choice for families that they have to make,” Christ said. “COVID-19, with the introduction of a vaccine and the ability to wear masks, is becoming an almost completely preventable disease.”

Vaccines are approved for kids as young as 12 and have proven to be highly effective keeping COVID-19, including the highly contagious Delta variant, from spreading and causing serious illness and death. Christ said she expects kids under 12 to become eligible later this year.

“Our message to the public is that this used to be a general pandemic; now it’s becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Christ said.

“Ninety percent of the cases in July were in unvaccinated individuals, 99% of the deaths since January have been in unvaccinated individuals. We highly encourage everyone to get fully vaccinated.”

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are being reported in Arizona at levels not seen since March, but there hasn’t been a similar increase in deaths.

“If I had to predict, and that’s using my crystal ball, I would say we’re probably going to see increasing cases over the next several weeks,” Chris said. “We know delta is here. We know it’s highly transmissible.

“What we would hope is that would encourage more individuals to get vaccinated.”

For details about statewide vaccine availability, the ADHS website has a vaccine-finder page with locations and other information.

For information about metro Phoenix vaccine availability, Maricopa County Public Health has a locator page listing pharmacies, government-run sites, health clinics and pop-up distribution events.

Arizona News

Phoenix Fire Department photo...
KTAR.com

Firefighters rescue injured hiker on South Mountain in helicopter

A man who fell six feet during his hike on South Mountain got transported via a helicopter to a local ambulance.
1 day ago
Near 12th Street and Northern Avenue, Phoenix. (Twitter Photo/@Crossfire923)...
SuElen Rivera

Parts of Valley sees light showers, more chances of rain this weekend

As monsoon season wraps up, parts of the Valley received some rain Friday evening heading into the weekend.
1 day ago
A woman gets a COVID-19 Pfizer booster shot in the "Im Lauesch" nursing home of Strasbourg, eastern...
KTAR.com

Arizona reports 2,916 new COVID-19 cases, 69 more deaths Saturday

Arizona health officials on Saturday reported 2,916 new COVID-19 cases and 69 additional deaths from the disease.
1 day ago
Office Kyle Trouton (Peoria Police Department Photo)...
SuElen Rivera

Peoria police officer catches man who jumped from 2nd story of burning home

Police in Peoria said one of their own rescued a man who jumped from the balcony of a burning home.
1 day ago
(Pixabay Photo)...
Data Doctors

Here’s how to get into geocaching, an outdoor and virtual treasure hunt

If you love the outdoors and treasure hunting or want a high-tech way to get the kids outside, geocaching is worth checking out.
1 day ago
(Photo courtesy of FuelFest)...
KTAR.com

FuelFest announces rescheduled date for Chandler event

The automotive celebration hosted by Tyrese Gibson and Cody Walker of the "Fast and Furious" franchise will come to Chandler on December 4.
1 day ago
Arizona health director recommends face masks for kids returning to school