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Maricopa County health director talks COVID-19 contract tracing, mask-wearing and schools

In a July 8th press conference by Maricopa County public health officials, they talked about the importance of wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state just hit the 2-week mark of mask requirements enacted by local governments. Health officials are still working to determine if they can curb the spread with that requirement alone or if the community will need more guidelines.

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“The most effective way to stop a spread is to wear a mask," said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, the Maricopa County health director.

She also says there is an increased amount of cases in the 0-19 age range.

"While younger healthy people without underlying conditions are less likely to have a severe illness, they can still become hospitalized and some have been," Sunenshine said.

MAP: Worldwide interactive Coronavirus case data

MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code

Contact tracing has been happening in the county since January, she said. Officials are reaching out to patients and following up, but says it can be difficult when they either aren’t getting contact info from patients.

"If only one case in 10 is reported to public health, what happens to the other 9 cases never reported," Sunenshine explained.

Contact tracing is not as effective when there is already community spread, she added.

"I understand why people want to know where people are getting COVID-19, but it’s important for people to know it’s circulating throughout the community. By the time someone gets tested and it gets reported to public health, that person has already been exposing people for a week or more," she explained.

When asked about schools reopening, Sunenshine says children learn best in an in-person environment, but with community widespread transmission at such high levels, she says it would not be a good idea to put school back in session.

FULL COVERAGE: fox10phoenix.com/coronavirus

CDC: How coronavirus spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ