Pediatricians urge Ducey to rescind school mask-mandate ban

Schools in Arizona are grappling with COVID-19 outbreaks in the opening days of the fall semester, and more than 150 doctors have signed a letter praising schools that have defied a state law banning mask mandates and urge Governor Doug Ducey to change his mind. change the law.

“I really can’t believe we’re here all over again,” said Dr. Susan Hughes, a family physician in Scottsdale, at a Capitol press conference after attempting to deliver the letter to Ducey.

Hughes delivered the letter along with Dr. Jacqueline Carter, an internist and pediatrician in Tempe. She delivered a similar letter in June 2020 urging Ducey to allow cities, towns and counties to set their own mask mandates; that letter was signed by more than 3,000 doctors.

The day after that letter was delivered, Ducey allowed cities and counties to institute mask mandates.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve asked the governor to do the right thing,” Hughes told the Arizona Mirror.

The signatures for the new letter were collected in 72 hours, and Hughes said that’s part of the reason why fewer people have signed up than last time — that, and they’re dealing with more and more patients entering hospital beds every day. Fill Arizona.

Arizona currently has an average of 2,209 cases of COVID-19 per day, 81% more than two weeks ago.

Hughes and Carter gave the letter to an associate of Ducey. Ducey’s office did not respond to questions about whether he planned to meet with the doctors.

While the doctors waited in the Capitol lobby to deliver the letter, an unmasked Dr. Cara Christ, the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, passed by.

“Hello Dr. Christian!” Hughes and Carter said enthusiastically. Christ waved back as she entered the management tower elevator and waved back with a smile.

The letter comes as schools reopen for personal learning for the first time since the start of the pandemic and the Arizona legislature passed new legislation banning schools from requiring the use of masks.

Several schools and school districts have already broken the law, which will only come into effect in September this year. Some schools in the state have already canceled classes or sent students home due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Data on the impact of COVID-19 on children in the state is not entirely clear, but estimates from the American Academy of Pediatrics show that Arizona ranks high in the number of infant deaths, hospitalizations and cases.

Many states, including Arizona, divide their case data into about six age ranges: 0 to 19, 20 to 44, 45 to 54, 55 to 64, 65 and older, and unknown.

“For us pediatricians, it would be helpful to know how many two-year-olds or school-age children are getting COVID, especially now that the Delta variant is coming in,” said Dr. Mary Ellen Rimsza of the Arizona chapter of the AAP Against the Mirror.

Arizona ranks first in 0-19 category hospitalizations for the country, eighth in total hospitalizations, and second in highest number of deaths.

More than 157,000 Arizonans ages 0-19 have been affected by the virus, with 34 deaths in the same age range. Of those 157,000, more than 2,300 had to be hospitalized. About 16% of all COVID cases in the state are in this age range.

“We are now seeing more children requiring hospitalizations,” said Rimsza, adding that children currently make up a small percentage of hospital admissions, but pediatricians worry that with the Delta variant, that could change.

A study by a group of British scientists found that the Delta strain is 225% more transmissible than the original SARS-COV-2 strain that triggered the global pandemic in early 2020. Another recent study by Chinese researchers at the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that people infected with the Delta variant had 1,000 times more copies of the infection in their lungs than those with the original virus.

Sending the new variant only takes a few seconds if a person is not careful.

Carter and Hughes are also concerned about the long-term effects the Delta variant may have on children who do get the virus. While younger children don’t seem to be at risk for the “long-distance symptoms,” Carter said older teens seem to experience COVID-19 in the same way that adults do.

That worries doctors that school districts are no longer allowed to mandate the use of masks by students, teachers, staff and visitors. That ban on mask mandates was included in the annual budget to secure the votes of anti-mask Republicans who said they wouldn’t vote for the spending package — including the landmark tax cuts Ducey championed — unless the state banned schools from requiring masks.

“Our kids are safer in the classroom with mitigation measures,” Carter said at Thursday’s press conference. “(The) ban on masking means that no school can provide a safe learning environment.”

Carter, Hughes and Rimsza all gave the same advice to parents: send your students to school with a mask on and have them vaccinated if they are over 12 years old.

“Kids have tolerated the vaccine so far, we just need to get more of it vaccinated,” Rimsza said. “We all want them to stay in school, but stay safe in school.”

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