PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Arizona Department of Health Services issued an emergency order Thursday mandating masks be worn at district and charter schools in the state. The order goes into effect immediately.
The order also states that masks should be worn at school-associated activities and on school buses.
“Keeping kids and teachers safe is one of our top priorities,” said Gov. Doug Ducey.
"Arizona and our nation remain in a public health emergency, and getting back to normal is not in the cards right now," said Governor Ducey.
“This emergency measure issued by ADHS addresses the serious threat COVID-19 poses to our communities. It requires schools to implement the simple step of mask-wearing to reduce transmission and keep our kids safe.”
The measure is aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19 on campuses and buses.
"There are some schools that aren't enforcing the masks. And so because we know that mask wearing is one of the best prevention methods we have, we wanted to make sure that all schools are implementing a mask mandate," said Dr. Cara Christ, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
When it came to mitigating the spread on school buses, Dr. Christ said it's important kids leave their masks on.
"You know so you've got kids in a not-well ventilated vehicle taking their masks off. There's not a lot of teachers on the bus so we wanted to make that explicit," said Dr. Christ.
In July, Ducey required all school districts and charter schools to develop and implement a policy to require masks for all staff and students. Schools have been asked to implement COVID-19 mitigation strategies, based on the school benchmarks, to keep students and staff safe. These mitigation strategies include mask-wearing, physical distancing, increased cleaning and disinfecting protocols, limiting the size of groups, and increased hand hygiene.
Arizona health officials reported 82 new coronavirus deaths and 5,442 new cases Thursday morning. Arizona now has a total of 346,421 confirmed cases statewide. The total number of deaths is now 6,821.