CDC Says School Mask Requirements Work; Arizona Adviser Says Mandate Debate Is Not Beneficial

Published: Monday, September 27, 2021 - 3:55pm
Updated: Tuesday, September 28, 2021 - 8:12am
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Arizona schools with mask requirements have been far less likely than schools without mask rules to have COVID-19 outbreaks, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week. But the state's senior adviser on public health emergency preparedness says it doesn't benefit the public to debate the issue of mandates. And in the days following the report, the Arizona Department of Health Services has remained quiet. 

As of Monday, the state health department had not tweeted about the CDC report or posted about it on its blog, as the department often does in response to CDC findings. And as of Monday, Dr. Richard Carmona, former U.S. surgeon general and recently appointed public health adviser for Arizona, said he had not spoken with the governor about the new school mask data. But Carmona said he and the governor have discussed masks on several other occasions.

→ CDC Report On Arizona Counties Shows Value Of Masks In Schools

“There is no difference in opinion, we all recognize the importance of masking and that we should encourage everybody to mask up," Carmona said. 

A health department spokesperson said via email that the department continues to encourage indoor mask use. The spokesperson did not respond to questions about why it had not publicized the CDC report on Arizona schools on its platforms except to say that CDC guidance on booster shots had been released the same day. 

Gov. Doug Ducey's office has threatened to withhold funding from Arizona schools with mask mandates and has offered vouchers to families who want to move their children to schools without mask rules.

The CDC report specifically considered the effectiveness not just of masks, but of school-wide mask requirements. But Carmona said the issue of mandates is divisive, and his role is to stay out of politics.

→ Arizona's Ban On School Mask Mandates Is Unconstitutional, Judge Rules

“I don’t think it’s beneficial to the public to continue fighting about something that’s already been determined in law by people that you’ve elected," Carmona said. 

Arizona lawmakers in their June budget bills had banned mask requirements in most K-12 schools in the state. The ban had been set to take effect Wednesday, but has been blocked for now by a superior court judge.

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