Supt. Hoffman urges Gov. Ducey to let Arizona schools mandate masks
PHOENIX – In response to updated federal guidelines, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman on Tuesday urged Gov. Doug Ducey to give schools authority over their COVID-19 policies.
“We know masks work and, with rising cases, they’re a vital part of our effort to reduce everyone’s COVID-19 risks,” Hoffman said in a statement.
“I am calling on Gov. Ducey to follow the guidance of public health experts and give schools back their local decision-making authority for safe in-person instruction.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course Tuesday on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.
— Kathy Hoffman (@Supt_Hoffman) July 27, 2021
Citing new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
In April, Ducey rescinded an order that had directed K-12 public and charter schools to require face coverings, but districts were still permitted to mandate masks and enforce other policies to stop the spread of COVID-19.
But last month, the governor signed a state budget that included a provision preventing local jurisdictions, including school boards, from mandating face masks or vaccines as a condition of participating in in-person instruction.
Many educators and health experts opposed the plan and said it would endanger public health.
Ducey has been a strong proponent of vaccines, but he opposes any government-imposed restrictions or mandates intended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“Businesses will stay open. Students will be able to attend school. There will be no mask mandates,” he said in a press release last week.
“We have a proven solution with the vaccine. I strongly encourage every Arizonan who is eligible for the vaccine to get it so they can protect themselves and our whole state.”
A handful of Arizona school districts have already started classes, but most will open their doors for the fall semester next week.
Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show last week she encourages the use of face masks, adding that she makes her own kids who are too young for vaccines wear them at school.
“Our recommendations at the department haven’t changed,” Christ said. “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.”
Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have been on the rise this month in Arizona and nationwide, with unvaccinated people accounting for almost all of the serious illnesses and deaths.
Federally authorized vaccines are widely available and highly effective in stopping the transmission of COVID-19, including the more contagious delta variant that now accounts for most of the new cases in the U.S.
The minimum age to receive the Pfizer shot has been reduced to 12, but it’s still 18 for the other approved versions, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.