Arizona enforces school mask mandate as some districts continue in-person learning
The Arizona Department of Health services issued a mask mandate for school districts and charter schools on Thursday. The mandate comes as COVID-19 cases in the state continue to rise and some schools refuse to follow safety guidelines. The state had 283,102 total cases and 6,395 deaths as of Nov. 18th.
The mandate requires students and faculty to wear masks at school, school-related activities, and on buses. It follows the looser guidelines set by Gov. Ducey in July which allowed schools to develop their own mitigation strategies and safety protocols. The DOHS created reopening benchmarks for schools to follow in August.
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Arizona’s COVID cases have continued to increase since July in spite of the DOHS and Ducey’s guidelines. Ducey disregarded the department’s reopening benchmarks in August, approving the reopening of schools who had not yet met safety requirements.
The summer safety and reopening guidelines did not mandate schools to take action. Some schools have refused to implement mask-wearing and pursued reopening even if benchmarks were not met. The DOHS hopes to reduce some of the damage from the previous weaker school health measures with the new mask mandate
Some districts, like the Kingman Unified School District, chose to continue in-person learning despite increased cases. Flagstaff Unified School District and Prescott Unified School Districts are continuing remote learning. Districts using hybrid learning include Paradise Valley Unified and Creighton Elementary.
The DOHS is also partnering with Hanes to provide Arizonian students with 5 new masks for them and their family.