Thursday, October 7, 2021

Pima County supervisors reject mask mandate in K-12 schools

Posted By on Thu, Oct 7, 2021 at 4:06 PM

Chris Zúniga/Creative Commons

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on Tuesday against mask requirements for K-12 schools in Pima County.

Supervisor Matt Heinz presented the proposal for masks in schools in response to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Pima County.

Pima County recently co-authored a study with the CDC that found K-12 schools without mask requirements in Pima and Maricopa counties were 3.5 times more likely to have a COVID outbreak than schools with mask mandates.

“In light of the information that literally came from this county and Maricopa County in Arizona and the CDC,” Heinz said, “I think it makes a lot of sense for us to take a look at this again.”

Heinz reiterated his view that masks protect students and teachers from COVID and that data supported his opinion.

Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County's chief medical officer, was asked to discuss the potential mandate with all 12 school district superintendents in Pima County. He presented their feedback during the board's regular meeting.

Garcia reported only two out of 12 superintendents were in favor of a county-wide school mask mandate. The two who supported the mandate already have mask requirements in place.

“Among the folks who felt this would not be useful, the big concern is they have figured out how to manage the political demands on their school board and to put it in the words of one of the superintendents, ‘This just kicks the hornet’s nest,’ ” Dr. Garcia said.

Superintendents are concerned that passing the mandate might reignite anti-mask protests. They said negative feedback has settled during the past few weeks. They also told Garcia they believe getting 5- to 11-year-old children vaccinated will be a bigger issue for them. 

After Garcia’s testimony, Supervisor Rex Scott said he would pay attention to their concerns.

“I’m gonna vote against it again because we cannot say that we are demonstrating leadership or that we are helping the cause of public health if we are telling other governments to enforce our mandate,” Scott said.

Steve Christy (R-District 4), Sharon Bronson (D-District 3) and Scott voted against the mandate.

“It needs to be decided by parents, it needs to be decided by the school board and it needs to be out of the purview of the Board of Supervisors,” Christy said.

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