The chairman of the Pima County Republican Party is calling for the arrest of local officials who mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or masks. In that lower part of the state, the city of Tucson requires vaccinations and the Marana School District requires masks.
Shelley Kais told the Arizona Daily Independent, “On September 29, any school board member, city councilman, or supervisor who requires masks or vaccines mandates and passports should be arrested ” She went on, “The power grab by our elected officials to play this ‘game of chicken’ is nothing more than political and follows neither science nor good public policy. We will continue to fight for our first responders, our teachers, and the children in Pima County.”
Gov. Doug Ducey issued an order on August 16 prohibiting local governments from issuing vaccine mandates. It is punishable by a class 3 misdemeanor or other legal action. Class 3 misdemeanors in Arizona are punishable by jail time, fines, probation, and/or other penalties.
The Arizona Legislature banned local governments from instituting mask mandates in a law that began on July 1. Phoenix Union High School District implemented a mandatory mask policy anyway, and a biology teacher at one of its schools filed a lawsuit against the district over it. A judge appointed by former Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano refused to slap an injunction on the school district’s mandate but is allowing the case to proceed. Other school districts have followed its lead. Judge Randall Warner appeared to ignore the effective date of July 1 in the legislation, instead choosing to decide that the law went into effect as do traditional Arizona laws 90 days after the annual session ends, on September 29.
Ducey issued a directive last week financially penalizing the school districts. They will not receive any of the $163 million that the state got through the American Rescue Plan to boost per-pupil funding. Students in those districts will receive vouchers to attend schools elsewhere.
Officials around the country are cracking down on local governments instituting vaccine and mask mandates. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to withhold the salaries from school district officials that impose mask mandates, although he later softened the position. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott banned COVID-19 vaccine mandates regardless of whether the vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA — like the recent approval of the Pfizer vaccine. Several school districts are moving ahead with the mandates anyway, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he will sue them.
Polls show that a majority of Americans disagree with draconian standards on vaccines and masks. A survey taken in July by The Trafalgar Group found that 71.4 percent of likely voters believe the COVID-19 vaccine should be a personal choice, compared to 21.8 percent who think it should be mandatory. Even a majority of Democrats, 58.7 percent, believe they should be voluntary. An August survey by Rasmussen Reports found that 57 percent of Americans are comfortable attending indoor social events without masks. A similar 59 percent said they had gone out in public without wearing a mask. And a significant 62 percent oppose stricter lockdowns, whereas only 31 percent want new lockdowns.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons opposes mask mandates in schools. The organization has a lengthy analysis of masks’ effectiveness and negative health implications on its site.
COVID-19 is not experiencing a big surge in Arizona like it is in some parts of the country. According to Worldometer, the spike is significantly smaller than the winter surge, and the increase in deaths is fairly small. On January 12, during the worst of the winter surge, there were 335 deaths. A few days ago on August 24, the most recent data from Worldometer shows 38 deaths, just over 10 percent of the winter’s high death toll.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at the Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Shelley Kais” by Shelley Kais. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.