PHOENIX - While Arizona health officials have issued an emergency measure to expand mask mandates in and around schools, Governor Doug Ducey has stopped short of issuing a statewide mask mandate, despite calls for him to do so by Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kathy Hoffman.
Hoffman believes a statewide mask mandate, as well as a suspension of team sports (a delay to winter sports was announced by the AIA on Nov. 19) are among the steps that should be taken immediately, so schools can stay open.
As community members call for school officials to shut down in-person learning for now, Hoffman is saying not so fast.
"I think what we need to be asking is why are we looking to close our schools first?" said Hoffman. "There are so many other options we should be looking at before we get to the decision of closing our schools, and that’s the conversation that is not happening right now, and it's very frustrating to me."
Hoffman says Arizona is not doing enough to clamp down on the surge of COVID-19 cases.
"We need to take that a step further because, again, the transmission of COVID is more often happening outside of the school," said Hoffman.
Hoffman says many educators believe keeping kids in school, at this moment, is safe.
"Some of the superintendents I’ve spoken with have shared that with all the mitigation strategies in the schools, they think having kids in schools is much safer than them being in public, where maybe they may not be required to wear masks," said Hoffman.