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Gov. Ducey lifts mask mandate at K-12 schools

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TUCSON (KVOA) - The mask mandate in K-12 schools has been officially lifted in the State of Arizona after Gov. Doug Ducey enacted a new executive order on Monday.

Back on July 23, Gov. Doug Ducey shared his plan to resume in-person instruction in the Grand Canyon State for local schools, ahead of the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

With cases surging at that time, Ducey passed the decision to resume in-person instruction to schools, sharing benchmarks created by the Arizona Department of Health Services that showed schools certain prerequisites it should reach before reopening.

In those guidelines, the governor directed schools to require face masks. Emergency Measure 2020-04, issued by ADHS, outlined the requirements for mask usage in schools.

On the heels of Ducey signing House Bill 2770 into law, which allows businesses in Arizona to not be required to enforce any mask mandates, the governor made the next step in lessening the COVID-19 mitigation in the state - officially rescinding the state's order to require face masks in schools.

“Nearly 2 million Arizonans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with many teachers and school faculty now fully vaccinated after being some of the first in line for vaccine prioritization,” Ducey said. “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. 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.”

According to the governor, this action was in alignment to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recent update to its school guidelines in relation to COVID-19.

He said despite rescinding the mask mandate at schools, "K-12 school districts and charter schools still maintain the right to institute and enforce policies to mitigate against COVID-19 spread, including the use of masks."

 “Across the state, almost 4.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered,” said ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ. “Many families and communities are further protected from COVID-19, and our schools are ready to decide their next steps when it comes to masks. We encourage all Arizonans to get the vaccine — it’s safe, effective and absolutely free to the public.”

Shortly after the decision to rescind school mask mandates was made, Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman released a statement against the decision.

"Today's abrupt removal of the mask mandate in schools is just one example in a long line of decision that has resulted in Arizona's embarrassing response to a virus that has claimed over 17,000 lives and impacted thousands more," Hoffman said. "Today's announcement destabilizes school communities as they end what has arguably been the most challenging year for education."

Hoffman's complete statement can be read in its entirety below:

Gov. Ducey lifts mask mandate at K-12 schools