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Pima County may help schools fight for mask mandates

Administrator suggests joining lawsuits
Pima County may help with mask mandates
Posted at 11:23 AM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 22:16:21-04

TUCSON, Ariz (KGUN) — As school districts like Tucson Unified challenge state orders against mask mandates, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry wants the county to join in the fight.

In a memo to County Supervisors, Huckelberry cities rising COVID infection rates and the fact vaccine protection is not available for children younger than 12.

He says, “Because of this, it is appropriate the County rise to the defense of local school districts who choose to require face mask for students, teachers and staff in the K-12 setting.”

The Administrator recommends that the County provide technical assistance, expert testimony in support of masking requirements and join school districts in defending against lawsuits the State of Arizona may file to overturn a school district’s mask order.

Supervisors will consider Huckelberry's recommendation when they meet on Monday, Aug. 16.

Adelita Grijalva looks at the issue as a County Supervisor, a TUSD board member and a parent and says it’s a valid use of county resources.

“We're gonna pay for it now or we pay for it with increased shutdowns and so a lot of our county employees and people in the county have children that are in our schools, and, you know, right now, there's only one district that is requiring masks in Pima County. And so, our children are getting sick, we're seeing the numbers every day continue to increase.”

District Four Supervisor Steve Christy says it’s fine for the County to help school districts with health information but joining a school district’s lawsuit is going too far.

“I think they're the governing bodies should stand on their own in that regard. The issues that seem to come up before the school boards, and the governing bodies are parent driven, and I think the school boards need to listen to parents in particular.”

Supervisors will also consider a number of other COVID related items that day, including a proposal by District 2 Supervisor Dr. Matt Heinz to require COVID vaccinations for all health workers.

This week, Supervisors voted down a plan to require COVID vaccinations for Pima County employees. Now Huckelberry is recommending incentives to encourage vaccinations.
He proposes $300 incentives for vaccinations. Employees who do not get COVID shots would lose premium discounts for their Pima County Health Insurance and be hit with a surcharge. The combined impact would raise their insurance costs by more than $1500 per year.

Huckelberry says when a county worker comes down with COVID the average cost to Pima County’s insurance plan exceeds $3200.

Christy says that’s not a proper use of public money. He says workers should get the shot because they think it's the right thing to do and insurance costs should not be leverage to drive vaccinations.

Grijalva says incentives could be an effective way to get more workers immunized.

The plan would allow exemptions for workers with religious objections or those who have medical conditions that preclude vaccinations.

Supervisors will also consider a proposal by County Supervisor and Medical Doctor Matt Heinz to require vaccinations for all health care workers in the county.