Arizona pediatricians are urging schools to require masks in response to omicron

Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2022 - 1:07pm
Updated: Wednesday, January 12, 2022 - 9:18am
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The Arizona chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging schools to require masks for all students and employees in response to the latest spike of COVID-19 cases.

The group cited an "alarming increase" of pediatric COVID-19 cases and hospitalization in the state and nationwide. From Dec. 31 to Jan. 6, 11,000 more Arizona children were diagnosed with COVID, said Dr. Mary Ellen Rimsza, the group's advocacy committee chair. In Arizona, 54 youth ages 19 and younger have died from COVID-19, according to data from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

"As pediatricians we strongly encourage all schools to take the steps necessary to keep their schools open which means using masks, having staff and teachers vaccinated, encouraging parents to vaccinate their children," she said, adding that only 29% of Arizona youth ages 19 and under have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Republican state lawmakers had tried to prevent public schools from requiring masks or vaccination, but part of a bill that would have banned those policies has since been voided by a Arizona Supreme Court ruling. 

In addition to masks, Rimsza said it's also important that students and school employees don't come to school when they're sick. 

Some COVID-19 signs that Rimsza said parents should look out for include a runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever and breathing problems as the child gets more sick. She recommends parents call their child’s pediatrician if they have any questions about whether their child should get tested.

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