Arizona Department of Health Advises Indoor Masking Again

Arizona Department of Health Advises Indoor Masking Again

By Corinne Murdock |

Two years and nine months after “15 days to slow the spread,” the Arizona Department of Health (AZDH) is again asking Arizonans to mask up. 

On Tuesday, AZDHS issued a blog post advising indoor masking due to the high levels of COVID-19 infections in eight counties: Apache, Cochise, Gila, Greenlee, La Paz, Navajo, Pima, and Yuma counties.

AZDHS noted that the remaining seven counties have medium community levels. 

The renewed guidance follows several years of scrutiny over the efficacy and safety of prolonged mask wearing.

Last April, State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) highlighted studies expressing concern over the safety of the graphene coating present on masks. Some, but not all, masks contain graphene. The presence of the carbon atoms isn’t distinguished by any color or design on a mask, and manufacturer labels don’t always disclose its presence. 

This past legislative session, lawmakers passed several bills to prohibit mask mandates. HB2616 requires schools to defer to parents when it comes to children wearing masks in schools. HB2453 prohibits government properties from requiring mask wearing on the premises. 

Current COVID-19 case breakdowns are as follows: Maricopa County, over 168,000 cases; Pima County, over 41,800 cases; Pinal County, over 16,300 cases; Yavapai County, over 8,100 cases; Apache County, over 7,700 cases; Navajo County, over 7,300 cases; Mohave County, over 7,100 cases; Coconino County, over 6,300 cases; Yuma County, over 5,800 cases; Cochise County, over 5,300 cases; Gila County, 3,000 cases; Santa Cruz County, over 2,100 cases; La Paz County, over 500 cases; and Greenlee County, over 300 cases.

These case totals are less than the spikes that occurred in June and July. Weekly case totals are about 54 percent of what they were this time last year, and about 41 percent of what they were this time in 2020. 

The highest number of cases week-over-week occurred throughout January earlier this year. 

There have been over 31,700 deaths attributed to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. That’s about 962 deaths per month. The most deaths occurred between mid-December 2020 and the end of January 2021. 

72 percent of all COVID-19 deaths occurred in those over the age of 65. 15 percent of deaths occurred in those between the ages of 55 and 65. Eight percent of deaths occurred in those between the ages of 45 and 54. Five percent of deaths occurred in those between the ages of 20 and 44. Approximately zero percent of deaths, a total of 73 persons, occurred in those under the age of 20. 

Compared with pre-pandemic years, Arizonan deaths in 2020 and 2021 increased by an average of 10,600 both years. From 2012 to 2019, Arizona deaths increased every year by an average of over 1,600. 

There were 60,100 deaths in 2019, 75,700 deaths in 2020, and over 81,400 deaths in 2021. It appears that this upward trend won’t continue this year. So far, there have been over 60,700 deaths (present data goes through October): a decline of over 5,000 compared with this same time last year. If death counts for November and December amount to the yearlong average of 6,000 deaths every month, then this year’s total deaths would amount to 72,900.

Nationally, the total number of mortalities increased by 17.6 percent in 2020 nationwide. In 2019, there were over 2.8 million deaths; in 2020, there were over 3.3 million deaths. 

Deaths attributed to COVID-19 weren’t the sole cause of the spike. Of the near-504,000 difference, COVID-19 deaths accounted for over 345,000. Heart disease deaths increased by over 31,800; unintentional injury deaths increased by over 19,100; stroke deaths increased by about 9,000.

Deaths attributed to chronic lower respiratory diseases, cancer, and suicide decreased by nearly 8,700 altogether. Deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases accounted for the greatest decline: over 5,300. 

Prior to 2020, year-over-year death increases averaged over 35,500 from 2015 to 2019, or about 1.2 percent every year.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.