Ducey Keeps Virus Policies Despite New Federal Guidelines

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona won’t be making any changes to its COVID-19 polices even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reversed course on some masking guidelines, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said Tuesday.

Citing a surge of infections from the delta variant, the CDC recommended that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the country classified as having substantial or high transmission. The agency recommends indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide regardless of vaccination status.

“Arizona does not allow mask mandates, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports or discrimination in schools based on who is or isn’t vaccinated,” Ducey said in a statement. “We’ve passed all of this into law and it will not change.”

Arizona’s best protection against COVID-19 remains the vaccine, Ducey added.

But Arizona Department of Health Services officials said the state will match the newly recommended mask guidelines for K-12 students, despite the governor's mandate against them.

“Everyone in a K-12 setting, teachers, staff and students, should wear a mask,” said Dr. Cara Christ, head of the state Department of Health Services. “I think the masks provide another layer of protection.”

Meanwhile, the daily number of new coronavirus cases and current hospitalizations around the state continues to creep upward.

Arizona health officials on Tuesday reported 1,475 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 12 more deaths, bringing the state's total to 920,084 cases and 18,183 deaths since March 2020.

The number of people hospitalized for the virus also climbed to 919 after going down for three straight days. Hospitalizations in ICUs also rose to 274. That figure hasn’t been that high since early March.

Since March, people who are not fully vaccinated made up 98% of deaths and 94% of hospitalizations. Those not fully vaccinated make up 89% of cases to date, Christ said.

The state reports more than 6.7 million vaccine doses have been administered. Over 3.7 million people — 51.7% of the state’s population — have received at least one shot of vaccine and more than 3.3 million people are fully vaccinated.