The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that they had modified their recommendations for mask-wearing, saying that those who have been fully vaccinated (with two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines; one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) can “resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.” This guidance includes a fundamental shift in federal public health instruction: the fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks.
This announcement from the CDC does not, however, embody any sort of enforceable policy. It exists as guidance for state and local governments, as well as private businesses, to choose to adopt. It also can and in some cases does inform the public’s personal safety preferences.
President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is now championing the policy, saying that people have a choice: “vaxxed or masked”. This has provoked outrage from both the left and right. MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow, a hallmark of the late night liberal commentariat, asked, “Really? Are you sure? How sure are you?” Tim Pool, an internet commentator typically associated with the political right, tweeted “[New York] is saying they won’t end the mask mandate and red states already did… You’re talking to the f***ing wall.”
Arizona’s mask mandate
Arizona, currently controlled by a Republican Governor and a majority Republican State Senate and State House, has already maintained looser mask guidance for months.
Besides signing HB 2770 in mid-April, which ensured that Arizona businesses are not required to enforce any mask mandate, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also rescinded the mask mandate for Arizona K-12 schools. Before this, he repealed his previous order enabling cities and counties to enforce their own mask mandates (soon after, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office clarified that localities could enforce and maintain mask mandates without gubernatorial permission).
Today, some cities still have opted to maintain their mask mandates (such as Phoenix and Tempe). Adhering to the new CDC guidance, Pima County rescinded their mask mandate last week, and Tucson Mayor Regina Romero has urged Tucson proper to follow their lead.
Regardless of the remaining legal hurdles within some localities regarding the removal of mask mandates, it is clear to anyone on-the-ground that mask compliance is on the decline and many businesses no longer require mask-wearing.
Businesses and vaccinations
Gov. Ducey has barred the state from enacting or enforcing “vaccine passports”, citing privacy concerns. Nonetheless, some businesses are only offering no-mask participation in their services if they can show the establishment proof of full vaccination.
“COVID Verified”, an Arizona business, has introduced bracelets that would allow businesses to check if their patrons have been fully vaccinated.
While there is no comprehensive list of businesses requiring masks, many businesses have simply stopped enforcing any policy they might have held previously.