PHOENIX (AP) — As the number of new COVID-19 cases in Arizona grows, worried officials in the state's major cities are reinstituting mask requirements in response to new federal guidelines.
Tempe and Flagstaff will enact mask mandates in city buildings regardless of people's vaccination status beginning Friday while Phoenix's will take effect next week. The mandates will make an exception for children under 6.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said she directed the city manager on Wednesday to require a similar measure.
The Phoenix City Council voted in May to have the city automatically adjust mask policies to track with the latest guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the city said.
The CDC on Tuesday recommended that people in areas of substantial virus spread wear masks in indoor spaces whether or not they are vaccinated, citing the rapidly spreading delta variant.
Most of Arizona, including the Phoenix and Tucson areas, meets the threshold for substantial community spread.
The state dashboard reported 1,759 confirmed new virus cases and 15 more deaths Thursday. That is a significant bump in a week where daily case numbers have been either 1,300- or 1,400-plus. Since the pandemic has started, Arizona has seen 923,204 cases and 18,200 deaths.
Gov. Doug Ducey has advocated against any public mask mandate and instead emphasized vaccination.
Nearly 6.8 million vaccine doses have been administered in Arizona. Only 51.9% — or more than 3.7 million people — of the eligible population has received at least one dose. Over 3.3 million people are fully vaccinated.
With most school districts returning next week, the Republican governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman continue to issue clashing messages. Hoffman made the rounds with media outlets Thursday to strongly urge parents, teachers and staff to wear masks in school. She criticized state law for preventing schools from issuing full mandates.
“Right now school leaders have their hands tied by the laws that were put into place … where they cannot implement all of the policies that they need to keep their community safe,” Hoffman told ABC15 Arizona.
In June, as part of the state budget, Ducey signed a law banning public schools and charter schools from mandating masks or vaccination.