PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday rescinded part of an executive order that required face masks be worn inside K-12 schools, but said districts and charter schools could still mandate masks should they choose to.
New: In alignment with @CDCgov guidance, I’m rescinding orders that direct K-12 schools to require masks. 1/— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) April 19, 2021
Gov. Ducey said the decision was based on updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the increasing number of people who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Teachers, families and students have acted responsibly to mitigate the spread of the virus and protect one another, and our school leaders are ready to decide if masks should be required on their campuses,” Gov. Ducey said in a statement. “We will continue to work with public health professionals and Arizona’s schools as more students return to the classroom and our state moves forward.”
Regarding CDC guidance, Dr. Shad Marvasti with the University of Arizona College of Medicine said, "Unless there's some other document that we're not aware of... it's pretty clear about requiring masks, no matter how much spread there is in the community.”
In a release, the governor added that K-12 school districts and charter schools still have the right to enforce policies to mitigate against the spread of COVID-19, including the use of masks.
In March, the CDC did update its guidance and reduce social distancing requirements from six feet to three feet, but said, “regardless of the level of community transmission, it is critical that schools use and layer prevention strategies.”
Those five strategies were:
- Universal and correct use of masks
- Physical distancing
- Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
- Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities
- Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman quickly took aim Monday afternoon at Gov. Ducey's removal of the order, saying it "destabilizes school communities as they end what has arguably been the most challenging year for education."
A Department of Education spokesperson also told ABC15's Steve Irvin that they were notified of the move only shortly before it was announced.
A spokesperson for the AZ Dept of Education tells me, the gov's office did not consult with them before rescinding the masks in schools order.— Steve Irvin (@Steve_Irvin) April 19, 2021
The department got a heads up "moments" before the announcement.
The Arizona School Boards Association says the announcement will cause confusion and could result in some children possibly being sent to school Tuesday with no masks.
The association also believes the timing isn’t the best. "We are administering state testing right now in Arizona at district schools as required by the state. So, we would have preferred that we just finish this five weeks of school with as minimal disruptions as possible and just get through to summer and next fall,” says Chris Kotterman with the ASBA.
The executive order was first issued by Gov. Ducey last July, directing schools to require face masks based on an emergency measure created by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
His announcement on the removal of the order came the same day he issued a directive banning vaccine passports.
Regarding CDC guidance, Dr. Shad Marvasti with the University of Arizona - College of Medicine says:
"Unless there's some other document that we're not aware of... it's pretty clear about requiring masks, no matter how much spread there is in the community.”