Arizona mask mandate being pushed by some community leaders amid omicron surge

Doctors say the omicron variant is almost four times more contagious than delta, and because of that, some Phoenix leaders want to re-implement a mask mandate two years into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, a Democrat, is demanding action from Governor Doug Ducey to require mask mandates across the state to help prevent and slow the spread of the virus.

"We need him to take directive actions to try to keep the community safe," he said. "If not, I think it’s up to the county board to take further steps."

The question now is, how well do our current masks work?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Jan. 12 that it does not plan to change its mask guidance but will update the information to show masks like N95 offer better protection, adding, "Any mask is better than no mask"

The former Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services and Executive Director for the Arizona Public Health Association, Will Humble, explained more about the effectiveness of certain kinds of masks.

Most masks, other than the N95, are only going to stop some particles coming out of your mouth, Humble said, adding that the N95 is the "gold standard."

To test how much air passes through masks, try to blow out a candle flame while wearing one. With the N95 mask, the flame doesn't move.

Professors at Arizona State University tested how different materials would perform and how to sterilize them properly because N95 masks are reusable.

Pierre Herckes is a professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and says, "You put them somewhere protective, in a dry place. At one moment, they were recommending in a paper bag and then let them rest for two or three days, and then you can use it again."

A request from Gov. Ducey's for comment about any mask mandate has not been returned.

If you’re looking to find an N95 mask, try looking at grocery or hardware stores. However, with demand being high, your best bet is online.

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