Some Arizona schools require masks, flouting Covid-19 state law

PHOENIX – When students returned to schools in the Phoenix Union High School district this week, most of them were wearing masks, per district rules – which go against the Arizona ban on the mask warrants.

Superintendent Chad Gestson has said he will apply a mask warrant for as long as recommended by health agencies and for as long as needed due to rates of Covid-19 cases in the region. He said all of the district’s 32 zip codes are in what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers high or substantial transmission, according to data from Maricopa County.

Under Arizona law, passed in late June, schools are prohibited from requiring proof of vaccination or wearing a mask. It is one of at least seven states that have banned the compulsory use of masks in schools through bills or executive orders.

The office of Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said what the school district does is not permitted by state law. “Governor Ducey believes the Phoenix Union decision requiring masks is toothless,” his office said in a statement. “It is inapplicable.”

Education administrators, government leaders and health officials came to a consensus early in the new school year that face-to-face learning is essential. However, a deep divide remains in some places regarding mask requirements. Arizona schools are among the first to resume teaching, providing an early indication of how mask wearing will play out across the country in the coming months as more schools reopen.

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