At the end of July and the beginning of August, several Arizona cities instituted mask requirements in city buildings and facilities. These cities include Flagstaff, Peoria, Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson. People entering city-owned buildings and facilities, like libraries and aquatic facilities, will need to wear a face mask, regardless of vaccination status.
This is a response to an increase in the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its recommendations last Tuesday around masks, recommending people wear masks when indoors in areas where there is “substantial or high” community spread. According to the CDC, nearly all of Arizona’s counties, including Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal, are all considered to be in “high” or “substantial” spread. The only two that are not — Cochise and Yuma counties — are considered to be in “moderate” spread.
What the Mask Mandate Means
The mask mandate only applies to city-owned facilities. There is still no mask requirement for private businesses (bars, restaurants, and stores), but businesses are still able to set their own rules for customers and employees.
What About Schools?
Most Arizona schools are now open again for in person learning this fall. The CDC recently recommended universal indoor masking for all K-12 and higher education schools, which would include anyone from teachers and staff to students and visitors, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not. Right now, anyone age 12 and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine.
Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ said that her department would be recommending the CDC’s guidance when it came to schools. The state’s superintendent Kathy Hoffman also encouraged people to follow the CDC’s new guidance. However, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed an executive order in June prohibiting schools from requiring students to wear masks or get the vaccine in order to return to in-person learning. Phoenix Union High School District has instituted a mask mandate anyway.