Phoenix Union High School District reinstates mask mandate

Amid the fast-spreading COVID-19 Delta variant, the Phoenix Union High School District announced on July 30 that all staff, students and visitors must wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, when the new school year begins on August 2.

"In an effort to protect our staff, students, and the community, PXU has a good faith belief that following guidance from the CDC and other health agencies regarding mitigation strategies is imperative," the district said in a news release on July 30.

Dr. Chad Geston, the district's superintendent, says they are doing everything they can to make staff and students to come back to school safe.

"I am welcoming back, and we in Phoenix Union High School District, our Governing Board, our executive team, our campuses are welcoming nearly 30,000 students on Monday, we must do everything we can in good faith and good conscience to ensure that when we can come back it's safe," Geston said.

The superintendent says he believes everyone will comply, but those who don't will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

A school board meeting will be held on Aug. 5 in regards to the mask issue.

Some parents want an option, lawyer talks mandate

Many parents are OK with their kids wearing masks, especially because they'll at least be back in the classroom. 

However, a mother within the school district says there should be an option to wear masks.

Florentina Lela wants an option for her two Alhambra High School students.

"Personally, I will love to prefer to have it optional and open. If anyone wants to wear it, they should be able to have a choice and wear it. But coming and mandating, it's not right," she said.

Daniel Barr, an Arizona attorney says of the mandate, "The Arizona Constitution provides that you can only have a law that's passed by the legislature refer to one subject or subjects that are related to that one subject."

The bigger issue now, according to Barr, is if parents or even the governor will sue districts for mandating masks. 

New mandate came amid updated CDC guidelines

Phoenix Union's mask mandate comes after the CDC updated its guidelines, saying that everyone in K-12 schools should wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, but it violates a new state law prohibiting schools from implementing mask mandates.

Governor Doug Ducey has said the state does not allow mask mandates.

"What I'm saying is my job as superintendent is to bring back students and staff safely, and general counsel here at Phoenix Union can handle the legal side," Geston said.

Health expert speaks out on mask use in classrooms

Will Humble, Executive Director of the Arizona Public Health Association, says the best way to keep in person learning consistent this fall is to have masks in the classroom.

"We needed a school district to tell the Governor to pound sand, that they were going to follow the guidance, follow the evidence, and challenge the law that he signed that prohibits them from being able to protect students in the classroom with masks," Humble said.

RELATED: AZDHS: Masks should be worn indoors, in classrooms amid Delta variant-fueled COVID-19 surge

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.

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