By Daniel Stefanski |
Days after an Arizona Republican Senator noted the increasing return of COVID-19 restrictions, another state legislator is doing the same for his constituents.
On Wednesday, Republican Representative Joseph Chaplik released an in-depth statement about the perceived rise in COVID-19 fears and restrictions as the fall season approaches. Chaplik attributed this to “recent media headlines panicking over the latest COVID variant, case numbers, and calls by some for the return of mask mandates.”
Chaplik assured constituents that Arizona laws afforded them more freedom than other states that might be on the verge of bringing back COVID-19 restrictions, writing, “While some states may go in that direction, the good news is that mandates won’t be happening here in Arizona. That’s due in large part to our state adopting common-sense laws to protect against government-imposed mask mandates on private businesses and requirements that children wear masks in public schools.”
The lawmaker pointed to two bills that he previously sponsored – both of which were signed into law by former Governor Doug Ducey over the past couple of years. The first was HB 2770, which empowered “businesses with the freedom to decide whether or not to observe and enforce any mask mandate imposed by government politicians from the state, county, city/town or other jurisdiction in Arizona.” The second was HB 2616, which prohibited “school districts and local governments from requiring minors to wear a mask or face covering without parental consent.” Chaplik called this enacted policy “a victory for parents’ rights and our children’s health.”
HB 2770 was signed into law in April 2021, while HB 2616 received Governor Ducey’s signature in April 2022.
In December 2021, Governor Ducey pointed to HB 2770 to counter reports that the Pima County Board of Supervisors were considering an implementation of a county-wide indoor mask mandate. Ducey tweeted, “Arizona law clearly states businesses are NOT REQUIRED to enforce mask mandates that any city, town, county or other jurisdiction in this state established. Rest assured, this law will not change. It took effect in September, following the signing of House Bill 2770 which echoed an Executive Order.”
Representative Chaplik ended his statement, adding, “Masking mandates imposed on the public didn’t work and certainly weren’t effective at preventing the spread of COVID. Mandates were especially unnecessary for children, the least at-risk population. If an individual chooses to wear a mask, that remains their personal choice, but it should never be mandated by the government. And, thankfully, the public won’t need to contend with new mandates in Arizona because of the action we’ve taken at the state capitol.”
Last week, freshman Senator Janae Shamp sent out a press release, “reminding Arizonans of the safeguards put in place by Republicans at the Legislature to protect against future outrageous overreach and scientifically baseless restrictions.” Shamp referenced both of Chaplik’s aforementioned bills – in addition to two other laws enacted in 2022: A.R.S. 36-681 and A.R.S. 26-303.
Reports have surged about an increase in COVID-19 cases with the spread of the EG.5 (“Eris”), FL.1.5.1 (“Fornax”), and BA.2.86 (“Pirola”). These developments have led to the return of some masking requirements around the nation. In Atlanta, Morris Brown College sent an email to its faculty, staff, and students, announcing the reinstatement of its COVID-19 mask mandate because of “reports of positive cases among students in the Atlanta University Center.” The college also reimposed physical distancing and gathering restrictions on campus.
The movie studio Lionsgate in Los Angeles also brought back its mask mandate for the office, as did Kaiser Permanente for its Santa Rosa (California) hospital and medical offices.
Author and one-time New York Times reporter, Alex Berenson, has also noted the increased attention for the newest wave of COVID-19 cases across the country, pointing to a headline in his former paper about the predictions for rising hospitalizations. Berenson said, “OMG this is the lead headline on the NYT right now. They really are not going to let it go ever ever EVER. I do not understand the game here, truly.”
Another Republican freshman representative at the Legislature, Austin Smith, has also been focused on the potential return of COVID-19 restrictions. Earlier this week, Smith tweeted, “We are not doing the mask thing again. Refuse.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.