Are we ‘normal’ again? Answers to 13 questions on changes in COVID-19 protocols

By Victoria Hill | Cronkite News

Vaccinations are on the rise in Arizona, and requirements for safety protocols at businesses, in schools and restaurants are being lifted. While health experts continue to counsel wariness, some Arizonans are taking cautious, relieved steps after more than a year of illness, loss and restrictions because of COVID-19.

Over the course of the pandemic, safety protocols were put into effect at the national, state and local levels, as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the past few months, those restrictions have been lifted gradually and continue to change.

On Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey, once again updated safety protocols for schools as part of a phased transition to full in-person learning.

As Arizona eases into a hopeful, post-pandemic life, here are 13 frequently asked questions about rules and regulations governing schools, businesses, activities and programs.

EDUCATION

Are face masks still required in schools?

Ducey’s executive order on April 19 rescinded the face mask mandate in Arizona schools. He pointed to the rise in fully vaccinated Arizonans as a factor in this decision, adding that “school leaders are ready to decide if masks should be required on their campuses.”

In his news release, the governor cited the Arizona Department of Health Services’ K-12 School Guidance for COVID-19, although the document has not been updated to reflect the change on masks.

Ducey also claims that their action aligns with CDC guidance, but the CDC still promotes the prioritization of universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing in its operational strategy for K-12 schools.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman called the executive order “abrupt” and “just one example in a long line of decisions that have resulted in Arizona’s embarrassing response to a virus that has claimed over 17,000 lives and impacted thousands more.”

During a White House press briefing on April 2, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top epidemiologist, said the goal is to vaccinate the entire population, including children and adolescents. “By the end of this year, we should have enough information to be able to safely vaccinate children of virtually any age,” he said.

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