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Pima County Health Department responds to new CDC guidance on masks in schools

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Posted at 12:08 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 21:17:51-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Pima County reaching 70 percent of adults who have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is a big achievement. As far as full immunization of adults, the county is close, sitting at 62 percent.

“It's a tribute to the county where we had a goal of getting 70% that was consistent with the administration's goal for July 4 so we missed it by a few days,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, the Pima County Health Director.

RELATED: Pima County hits 70% vaccination rate among adults

Although vaccination rates have declined across the country, Cullen says she still has hope for reaching herd immunity.

“Yes, I do, and the reason why I think that is even though the acceleration of the immunization rate has decreased, we are still on a daily basis, seeing increased people seeking their first immunization so entering into the immunization pool,” said Cullen.

A group adding to that pool is adolescents. A big topic for that age group is how schools will operate this upcoming school year.

The CDC issued new guidelines on masks in schools Friday, saying students and teachers who are fully vaccinated have the option to mask up or not. This news is something Cullen and the Pima County health department agree with.

RELATED: Vaccinated teachers and students don't need masks inside schools, CDC says

“We are aware that that guidance did come out today it is consistent with what we said last week, which was if you are unvaccinated we strongly recommend you mask. If you are fully vaccinated, then the decision to wear a mask or not is at your discretion. And in terms of schools, we work really closely with the school boards and obviously with the Arizona Department of Education. We want to be consistent with what they're saying about masking, but also consistent with what the CDC is saying,” said Cullen.

She says, right now 59.2-percent of those 12 and older are fully vaccinated in Pima County; 67.6-percent have one dose.

To parents who are still hesitant about in-person learning or unmasked people at schools, Cullen has this message.

“Our belief is that the vast majority of schools have put in appropriate layered mitigation for students. We really encourage people to obviously make their own decision, but to recognize that in most situations, the schools have done everything they can from a layered mitigation perspective,” said Cullen.

She says as the health department rolls out back-to-school immunizations, the county will provide the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and older.