Sen. Kelly: Masks wouldn’t be an issue if more Arizonans were vaccinated
PHOENIX – Face mask mandates wouldn’t be the hot-button issue they are today if more people were vaccinated against COVID-19, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly said Thursday.
“I think it’s important that we follow public health guidelines, and if the CDC says that we should be wearing masks in public places indoors, that’s what we should do,” the Arizona Democrat told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News.
“Let me also point out that if we had more individuals vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or Moderna or Pfizer, with the two vaccines, and we got up to herd immunity, we would not be having this conversation right now.”
As of Thursday morning, 46.7% of Arizona’s population was fully vaccinated against the virus; the national rate was 49.8%. Experts estimate that the level needed to reach herd immunity, the point at which enough people are immune to the virus so that spread is unlikely, could be as high as 85%.
In June, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a ban on mask requirements in public schools as part of the state budget. The bill that includes the ban doesn’t go into effect until Sept. 29, but it contains a clause to make the mask provision retroactive to June 30.
Based on recent data about the rapid spread of the COVID-19 delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that even vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings in parts of the U.S. classified as having substantial or high transmission.
Several Arizona districts have decided to make the CDC mask guidance their policy to start the new school year. While defending its mask mandate in court Wednesday, the Phoenix Union High School District argued that the law isn’t in effect yet. A judge has yet to rule on the issue.
Kelly didn’t directly answer when asked what he thought about districts defying the wishes of the governor and state lawmakers and possibly breaking the law in the process.
But he emphasized the importance of following the guidance of experts on matters of public health.
“If you’re looking at this stuff online, there’s an incredible amount of misinformation, and I think social media companies need to do a better job policing that. But the important thing here is to listen to public health officials,” he said.
“Yes, sometimes there might be mixed messages. But you need to trust the public health officials and scientists on this, get vaccinated, you know, the mask guidance; I would listen to the CDC.”
Kelly encouraged anybody eligible and who doesn’t have a health condition that prevents them from getting vaccinated to get the shots.
“This vaccine is safe and it’s effective and it is really the only thing that’s going to get us out of this mess we’ve been in now for a year-and-a-half,” he said.