PHOENIX — Another turn in the masking wars across the country came on Tuesday as the Centers for Disease Control is now recommending all students, teachers and faculty wear mask in the classroom despite vaccination status.
The reason is the highly contagious delta variant which is responsible for 83% of all new infections.
“We will be updating our recommendations to match their recommendations and guidance just released," said Arizona Department of Public Health Director Dr. Cara Christ. "We recommend parents of children talk to their kids about how important it is for kids to wear masks; to have teachers and staff modeling that behavior while they are at school. Kids learn a lot from the adults in their live.”
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey disagrees with his health department. His office released a statement in response to the new recommendations.
"Arizona does not allow mask mandates, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports or discrimination in schools based on who is or isn’t vaccinated. We’ve passed all of this into law, and it will not change," said Ducey.
Arizona is one of several state with laws prohibiting schools from mandating masks.
"The CDC today is recommending that we wear masks in school and indoors, regardless of our vaccination status. This is just another example of the Biden-Harris administration’s inability to effectively confront the COVID-19 pandemic," said Ducey.
Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas calls the ban reckless.
“Everybody wants this virus behind us, we all want to move beyond this pandemic,” said Thomas. "The frustrating part is science will take us there more quickly than anything. If we don’t listen to our scientist and epidemiologist, we are going to be prolonging the amount of days and months we have to deal with this virus.”
Thomas says the virus and safety mitigations should have never become politicized.
"For schools to be in compliance with state law, they are unable to enforce a mask mandate no matter how broad the spread of the virus," said Thomas. "A school is only as health and safe as the community that it is in."
The delta variant is the driving force behind the new masking guidelines.
“This pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to the health of all Americans,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said. “The CDC recommends that everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask indoors including teachers, staff, students and visitors regardless of vaccination status.”
The White House is encouraging state's with laws limiting local oversight of safety mitigations to follow the science.
"I don't know how to influence local elected officials in these states, but I certainly hope for the health and wellbeing of the next generation that they take a close look at the guidance," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
The rise in new cases is concerning for Dr. Christ.
"I am concerned because I have loved ones that are at a vulnerable risk," said Christ. "Kids luckily have not seen an increase severity with the Delta variant but can still get the virus and spread it."
The delta variant is much more contagious than other variants and even though the COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be highly effective in preventing severe symptoms, hospitalization and death, vaccinated people can still carry and shed the virus.
"If you are not fully vaccinated, please take the steps to protect yourself," said Christ. "We are seeing increased hospitalizations and cases and we don't want any Arizonan to have a bad outcome, especially since there is a prevention method that is now available."
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