Arizona’s top health official and loyal ally to Doug Ducey, Dr. Cara Christ, will turn in her badge to go work in the private sector after she issued recommendations on masking requirements that conflict with the governor’s own position.

Lucky for her, she can bolt from the governor’s team. But children and teachers in K-12 public schools will be stuck potentially unprotected on campuses because of an edict by Ducey that public schools cannot require mask-wearing, increasing the likelihood of infection by COVID-19 and especially its Delta variant. School district officials in Santa Cruz County are bracing for this new challenge. All they can do, they say, is recommend that everyone wear masks.

“Everyone, whether you’re fully vaccinated or not … should wear a mask when you are indoors or around others that you do not live with,’’ said Dr. Christ, who will depart from the Department of Health Services on Aug. 27 and become chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.

Her mask recommendations came a week after Christ also strayed from Ducey’s stance on whether schools should be able to quarantine unvaccinated students who have been exposed to the virus. She said that schools should be able to quarantine unvaccinated students and keep them out of class in at least some cases where they have been exposed. “Isolation and quarantine does remain a tool that’s available to local public health (agencies) when they are working with school districts,” Christ said.

For the record, she told Howard Fisher of Arizona Media Services that her differences with Ducey did not lead up to her resignation.

On Tuesday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman called on Ducey to follow the Center for Disease Control’s latest announcement that recommends students and teachers in K-12 schools to continue enforcing mask policies.

“I am calling on Governor Ducey to follow the guidance of public health experts and give schools back their local decision-making authority to set policies for safe in-person instruction,” Hoffman said.

Meanwhile Tucson Mayor Regina Romero issued a new mask mandate Wednesday for all city facilities, regardless of vaccination status. That same day, Apple announced that it would start requiring employees and customers to wear masks in more than half of its stores. Also on Wednesday, Reuters reported that numerous U.S. federal agencies also mandated masks at federal buildings in COVID-19 hot spots in line with instructions issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

City and county officials said they are monitoring the situation before taking any action concerning mask-wearing.

Ducey says he wants to combat the resurgence through inoculation. But Arizona is already behind on the vaccination curve with just 46 percent of eligible people vaccinated. Nationwide, 56 percent of those 12 years and older have been vaccinated. New infection cases are rising steadily, meaning there is an increasing likelihood for infections in all settings.

The governor is already firmly entrenched on the wrong side of history when it comes to the pandemic. His loyalty to the GOP base is so cemented that even when warned by health experts a month before Arizona recorded the nation’s highest transmission rate of COVID-19 in December 2020, his response was underwhelming. Don’t expect that to change.

“I don’t know what role you think the government can have in private home settings,” he told a reporter for the Arizona Republic at the time. But he does know what he can do at schools trying to keep children safe: Don’t require masks.

(Coppola is publisher of the Nogales International. Contact him at publisher@nogalesinternational.com.)

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