Mixed Messages? Doctor says Arizona needs statewide mask mandate

Updated: Jul. 16, 2020 at 8:49 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Despite pressure from local leaders and health professionals, Gov. Doug Ducey has not issued a statewide mask mandate amid the coronavirus pandemic.

During a press conference Thursday, July 16, Ducey said about 90 percent of the state had mask requirements in counties, cities or towns. He thanked local leaders who imposed those mandates and citizens for complying with them.

But, are “thank you’s” and recommendation enough of an action? For Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a Family Physician at One Medical, there needs to be more.

“The governor is telling us to wear masks and he recommends them, yet there is no mask mandate. So that is a little bit of mixed messaging to the public,” said Bhuyan. “When we look at the clinical evidence and data, it really does indicate one of the top things that we can do to curb the spread of this virus is wearing masks and the fact that we don’t have a statewide mask mandate is a mistake.”

As of Thursday, the Arizona Department of Health Services, reported more than 134,000 COVID-19 cases in the state. There have been 2,492 deaths due to the virus.

360 of those deaths occurred in Pima County.

Track COVID-19 cases by zip code by clicking HERE.

“And the governor did mention that we are seeing a plateau. Although we are seeing a plateau, cases and percent positives are still plateauing at a high place and so if we actually want to see a decrease, we need to take steps to reduce the transmission,” said Bhuyan.

A recent study found that the use of masks and face coverings has been the most effective way to reduce person-to-person spread of coronavirus.

[ Fact Finders: UA researchers look at best (and worst) materials for masks]

Ducey announced the state will be providing free face masks to Arizona’s most vulnerable population, identified as those 65 and older, as well as anyone who may be medically-vulnerable. You will be able to order the mask through the state’s website starting Friday, July 17.

“But really, the people who should be wearing masks are the people who have the highest level of cases. Right now, that’s people in the age 20 to age 44 age group,” said Bhuyan. “They’re still working at restaurants, they are still out and about, a lot of them are essential employees, so they have to continue to work. They are the ones getting sick and spreading this.”

[ Walgreens, Target, Publix join list of stores mandating masks ]

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero also stressed the need for a statewide mandate on Thursday afternoon. Masks or face coverings are required in public in the city of Tucson and Pima County where social distancing is not an option.

Bhuyan said she would like to see masks made available to more Arizonans, as well as expanded testing and contact tracing. She said there needs to be an emphasis on expedited testing results.

“The bottom line is that we are taking steps in the right direction, but in Arizona, we need to take more aggressive steps and I don’t think the governor went far enough today,” said Bhuyan.

Copyright 2020 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.