Arizona schools that enacted mask mandates for students and staff before classes began were 3.7 times less likely to experience an outbreak of COVID-19 than schools without such mandates, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Public schools in Maricopa and Pima counties were more likely to start their school year off without an outbreak of more than two positive COVID-19 cases if they had implemented a mask mandate for all students and staff regardless of vaccination status before returning to classes in late July and early August.
During the period between July 15 and Aug. 31, 191 outbreaks occurred in those county school districts. Of those, 16 cases were confirmed in schools that implemented mask mandates early, 62 cases in schools that implemented mandates after school started, and 113 cases in schools that did not enact any masking requirements.
Residents in Pima and Maricopa counties together account for about three-quarters of the state population. At the time of the survey, slightly over 47% of the people in Maricopa County and about 60% of the people in Pima County had received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Children under 12 are not eligible for the vaccines, leaving them at higher risk of contracting an infection caused by the highly contagious delta variant.
Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, has supported anti-masking measures passed out of the GOP-majority legislature that restrict the authority of cities and school districts to enact outbreak mitigation measures, such as masking and vaccination requirements. A coalition of educators, parents, and child welfare advocates has already asked Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper to throw out the anti-masking laws, which were stuffed into unrelated appropriations bills.
Absent a ruling by Cooper to toss the ban, it is set to go into effect on Wednesday. School districts that defy the ban face losing critical education funding passed down to the state as part of the federal American Rescue Plan. Dozens of schools, however, have already defied the state and implemented masking requirements anyway.
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Original Author: Cassidy Morrison