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School Mask Wars in Arizona Intensify As COVID19 Cases Soar

School Mask Wars in Arizona Intensify As COVID19 Cases Soar

A University of Arizona medical researcher reported recently that transmission among Arizona kids younger than 15 is “set to exceed those of all other age groups for the first time”. The report says “transmission among children” is “certainly driven by in-person instruction in the presence of the Delta variant”.

The main children’s hospital in Arizona, Phoenix children’s hospital, has seen an increase in cases and hospitalizations of kids with Covid-19, says Dr. Wassim Ballan, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the hospital. “Mortality is low but not zero,” he says. “Yet.”

Costa Mesa , CA – May 17: An anti-mask rally outside the Orange County Department of Education in Costa Mesa, CA, on Monday, May 17, 2021. More than 200 people came out to protest children in school being forced to wear masks. “n(Photo by Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

COVID19 guidelines – wearing masks in indoor settings – will be difficult to follow when a new Arizona law that bans mask mandates in state-affiliated schools takes effect on September 29th. A recent court challenge to the law, filed by parents, teachers, school boards, and other advocates for kids, notes that if schools aren’t allowed to impose COVID19 mitigation measures, like masks, “students and teachers will get sick and some may die.”

Any school district with a mask mandate draws the ire of Republican Governor Doug Ducey and his allies in the Republican-dominated statehouse who are ramping up a showdown at the very time COVID19 cases and hospitalizations have worsened.

By Thursday evening, Arizona, with a population of about 7.1 million, had reported nearly 1 million Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. More than 18,600 people have died, 35 of them under the age of 20. That may rise, as the state’s positivity rate has soared to 10-14% – up from 5% in May.

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While Arizona hospitals aren’t yet full, they are experiencing an alarming uptick in Covid-19 patients, most of whom are not vaccinated. The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association calls the surge in the state cases “ominous”. Yet only 47.3% of Arizonans are fully vaccinated, compared with 51.7% nationwide.

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