Ducey, Hoffman

State schools chief Kathy Hoffman at a press conference about COVID-19 earlier this year with Gov. Doug Ducey.

As Payson schools prepare to return to in-person learning later this month, the Arizona superintendent of schools is reminding parents and students that masks are the easiest way to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I urge municipal leaders to continue their masking efforts in their communities — and I urge leaders in areas without mask requirements to take action now,” said Superintendent Kathy Hoffman. “Our school communities are depending on continued steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our state.”

Payson schools are requiring all staff and K-12 students to wear masks on buses and school campuses “when 6 feet social distancing is not possible.”

Masks must fully cover the nose and mouth and remain in place without the use of one’s hands. Masks must not have holes or vents. All visitors are subject to the same requirements. Buses and schools will have disposable masks available for those who need one, according to Payson Unified School District Superintendent Linda Gibson in a Sept. 17 announcement.

Hoffman stresses wearing a mask and social distancing.

Wearing a mask in schools is mandated across Arizona under an executive order from Gov. Doug Ducey.

“Our public schools play a critical role in the lives of Arizona’s children and families. But to keep moving in the right direction, we cannot let up our mitigation efforts,” Hoffman said.

Banner Health, Arizona’s largest health care system, which has cared for nearly half of all COVID-19 patients in the state, agrees that masking must continue.

“We have begun to see a decline in COVID-19 cases in Arizona, and I firmly believe this can be attributed to good behaviors, such as masking, to help reduce the spread,” said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, chief clinical officer for Banner Health. “For this reason, Banner Health is strongly opposed to any decision or consideration to relax existing mask mandates. Evidence has shown that masking mandates have worked to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Bessel added that even though COVID-19 cases appear to be decreasing, schools should continue to follow recommendations such as masking, social distancing and other protective measures.

“We have seen how requiring the use of a face mask directly helps to lower the number of COVID-19 cases in our state,” said Ann-Marie Alameddin, president and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. “Now is not the time to ease up on our efforts to stop this virus from spreading through our schools and back into our homes.”

All Arizona students and school staff can order five washable, reusable cloth face masks through the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Payson resumes in-person learning Oct. 12.

Contact the editor at abechman@payson.com

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