On Wednesday, multiple health groups and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman urged cities in the Copper State to keep mask mandates steadfast after requirements were lifted in Lake Havasu City, according to KTAR-FM.
“Eliminating these mask mandates will only increase the potential for community spread and place additional burden on our health care delivery system,” Health System Alliance of Arizona Executive Director Jennifer Carusetta wrote in a statement. “We urge Arizona leaders to maintain existing mask mandates and COVID-19 mitigation efforts.”
The Health System Alliance of Arizona advocacy group represents major state health care networks including Banner Health, Dignity Health, HonorHealth, Northern Arizona Healthcare and Tenet Healthcare, according to KTAR.
In a separate news release from the Department of Education, Hoffman asserted that mask mandates would help schools stay open and expand in-person instruction.
“I urge municipal leaders to continue their masking efforts in their communities — and I urge leaders in areas without mask requirements to take action now,” she said. “Our school communities are depending on continued steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
While the Department of Health Services provides COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools reopening, districts have the final word on whether to allow in-person instruction.
Arizona schools have adopted a wide spectrum of schooling tactics, including hybrid plans that mix virtual and limited in-person classes. Face coverings are mandatory for in-person instruction.
Yet there is no statewide regulation.
Cases in Arizona are down this week, but the Sunbelt state still has a positivity rate of 14.99%, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The pandemic has killed more than 205,000 people in the U.S., the most of any country in the world.
On Wednesday, leaders reported 323 new coronavirus cases in Arizona alone and 18 deaths.
In June, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey granted localities the authority to require face masks in public spaces. Several counties that had previously implemented mask requirements, however, have recently lifted them.
Scottsdale and Gilbert were among such counties, but residents in the region remain subject to Maricopa County’s mask requirement.
Lake Havasu City’s Republican Mayor Cal Sheehy suspended the municipality’s mandate on Monday.
“Public health professionals believe that the best strategy is to wear a face covering or a mask – and I still encourage that,” he explained. “But it is just asking our citizens to take personal responsibility and to do what is best for themselves and their family.”