PHOENIX (AP) — The Pima County Board of Supervisors rescinded its mandatory face mask policy in most public settings on Friday for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a day after federal health officials issued similar guidance.
The board voted 4-1 to change the mandate to a recommendation for people who are not fully vaccinated and in settings like public transportation and schools for everyone. Tucson Mayor Regina Romero announced she would ask the city council to vote on a similar action next week, although she expressed reservations because it is impossible to tell who is vaccinated. She also took a shot at Gov. Doug Ducey, who withdrew cities and counties' ability to issue the mandates in March.
“It is because we masked up and followed the advice of our public health experts that we are in a position where cases are low and we can take additional steps to fully return back to normal," Romero said in a statement. “Unlike our state leaders, here in Tucson we have listened to our public health experts and followed the science since the beginning of this pandemic.”
Pima County and the cities of Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and some others refused to follow Ducey's order to rescind mandates he allowed them to issue to slow the spread of the coronavirus last June.
The mask ordinance in Phoenix remains in effect. The city said rescinding its mandate requires a vote of the city council.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing restrictions for fully vaccinated people on Thursday. Officials advised that those who received their shots should still wear masks in crowded indoor spaces such as public transport, hospitals and homeless shelters.
Friday's developments come as Arizona's daily new COVID-19 case count continued a week-long upward trend with 854 known new COVID-19 cases reported along with nine additional deaths.
The state Department of Health Services' latest figures come as cities and counties wrestle with whether to follow new guidance and allow the fully vaccinated to mostly cease mask-wearing, as Pima County did Friday.
Since Saturday, daily case numbers in Arizona have ping-ponged within the 400 to 600-plus range.
Arizona's total cases and related deaths since the pandemic's onset now stand at 872,022 and 17,447, respectively.
The number of patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 rose slightly to 594. The number of those in an ICU dipped to 193.
More than 5.4 million vaccine doses have been administered so far in the state. More than 3 million, or 43% of the eligible population in Arizona, have received at least one dose. Over 2.5 million people are estimated to be fully vaccinated.
Public health officials expect the demand for doses to rise with 12-to-15-year-olds eligible as of Thursday. The seven state-run sites in metro Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma, and Flagstaff gave out over 6,000 doses, according to the state.