UArizona Health Director Recommends State ‘Upgrade’ Best Masking Practices

UArizona Health Director Recommends State ‘Upgrade’ Best Masking Practices

By Corinne Murdock |

Those behind and in support of masking requirements who have deemed cloth and medical masks satisfactory these past 22 months are now saying they’re no longer ideal. Instead, experts have begun calling for an “upgrade” of sorts. University of Arizona (UArizona) Public Health Policy and Management Director Joe Gerald is one such health expert; he told KOLD that individuals should wear masks graded KN95 or higher, in addition to getting vaccinated. 

“[People should be] making more careful decisions about how you interact these next few weeks, wearing a mask that’s upgraded to KN95 or higher,” said Gerald. “Public health right now is a hard sell. We are two years into this, many of the things we’re asking people to do require a sacrifice of self to others, and it’s a hard message even in good times. […] You’re not going to be able to convince everyone to do the right thing all the time, but you’re trying to get more people to do the right thing more of the time.”

Gerald has provided his expert opinion frequently throughout the pandemic to both policymakers and news outlets. Near the beginning of the pandemic, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) appointed Gerald to a task force charged with creating a model to predict COVID-19 spread. Gerald’s model predicted that the least amount of COVID-19 cases would occur by waiting to reopen fully until the end of May.

In early May, ADHS disbanded the task force. Instead, ADHS reportedly opted to use a then-undisclosed federal model from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The ADHS director at the time, Dr. Cara Christ, published the FEMA model later that month. Unlike the version offered by Gerald’s task force, the FEMA model didn’t account for the lifting of mitigative measures.

Gerald also predicted to reporters last June that the state would run out of hospital and ICU beds within weeks; that didn’t happen. All throughout last year Gerald pushed against UArizona’s reopening last fall for in-person class, telling CNN last Julythat it was “a really stupid idea.” Last October, Gerald explained to The Atlantic how he’d successfully rallied UArizona to slow its reopening for in-person classes. 

Gerald’s latest recommendation followed Pima County’s health department and board of supervisors implementation of another mask mandate last week. Individuals must wear masks indoors when six feet of social distancing can’t be maintained. The mandate’s enforcement measures relied on A.R.S. § 36-183.04 through § 36-183.07, as well as § 36-191. Individuals who fail to adhere to a compliance order may be charged a civil penalty up to $750, or $1,000 in one day and up to $10,000 per violation depending on the course of action undertaken by health officials. Enterprises who violate health edicts may owe up to $5,000; those who hold a valid permit could be guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor, and the permitless could be guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor. However, the supervisors noted that any civil or criminal enforcement action couldn’t be undertaken without their approval. 

The shift in masking narrative hasn’t been exclusive to the Pima County area: health experts and other Democrat-run areas across the country have been shifting theirs as well. Instead of cloth masks, the new, improved standard for masking has graduated to filtering facepiece respirators (FFPs) — masks graded KN95 or higher.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced Monday that their state would distribute at-home COVID-19 tests and N95 masks beginning Thursday.

As of guidance last updated in October, the CDC recommended cloth masks and advised against N95 masks. Their recommendation was based on the need to reserve N95 masks for health care personnel.

On Monday, the CDC announced that it would halve the recommended quarantine period from ten to five days. Infected individuals must be asymptomatic and wear a mask around others to receive the shortened quarantine period. The CDC recommended the same for those exposed yet uninfected, even for the unvaccinated or more than six months out from their last COVID-19 vaccination; yet, that same class of individuals may also be permitted to avoid quarantine altogether by masking for ten days, if quarantining isn’t feasible and they test negative after day five of exposure. 

The CDC claimed their decision was “motivated by science.” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky emphasized that the new priority was a safe continuance of regular life. 

“CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives,” stated Walensky. “Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”

It’s unlikely the CDC’s sudden change in COVID-19 mitigation protocol originated within the government. Rather, the push from large corporations may have prompted the change.

Nearly a week earlier, Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian asked Walensky in a request letter to halve the required ten-day quarantine period for his fully vaccinated workers experiencing breakthrough COVID-19 infections. Bastian claimed that data on the Omicron variant suggested the virus was 25 to 50 percent more contagious but less virulent and with shorter incubation and infection periods for the fully vaccinated. According to the CEO, over 90 percent of Delta Airlines’ workforce has been vaccinated. 

Bastian also proposed a partnership, offering up his medical experts to work alongside the government and “collect empirical data.” The CEO classified his workers as essential, equating their necessity to health care workers, police officers, firefighters, and public transportation workers.

“Our employees represent an essential workforce to enable Americans who need to travel domestically and internationally. With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the 10-day isolation for those who are fully vaccinated may significantly impact our workforce and operation,” wrote Bastian. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the CDC to protect the health and safety of our people, customers, and communities as the pandemic evolves.”

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

The Arizona Supreme Court’s Ruling Against Budget Bills Creates Uncertainty and Frustration

The Arizona Supreme Court’s Ruling Against Budget Bills Creates Uncertainty and Frustration

By the Arizona Free Enterprise Club |

Devastating. That’s how it felt earlier this week when the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s ruling in Arizona School Boards Association v. State of Arizona. This decision strikes down critical reforms contained in a series of Budget Reconciliation Bills passed by lawmakers and signed by Governor Ducey earlier this year.

And it’s a big blow to the people of Arizona.

This past July, Arizona lawmakers took important steps to protect our state from more COVID mandates and government overreach. Among the laws passed were bans on:

  • A county, city, or town from issuing COVID ordinances that impact private businesses, schools, churches, or other private entities, including mask mandates.
  • K-12 schools from requiring vaccines with an emergency use authorization for in-person attendance.
  • The state and any city, town, or county from establishing COVID vaccine passports or requiring COVID vaccines.
  • Public universities and community colleges from mandating COVID vaccines and vaccine passports.
  • A city, town, county, school board, or charter school from mandating students and teachers to be vaccinated or wear masks.

But COVID wasn’t the only thing these Budget Reconciliation Bills addressed.

>>> CONTINUE READING >>>

The Arizona Supreme Court Should Uphold New Laws Banning Mask Mandates, Vaccine Mandates, and Critical Race Theory

The Arizona Supreme Court Should Uphold New Laws Banning Mask Mandates, Vaccine Mandates, and Critical Race Theory

By the Arizona Free Enterprise Club |

This past July, Arizona lawmakers and Governor Ducey did the right thing. Through a series of Budget Reconciliation Bills, they took important steps to protect the people of Arizona from more COVID mandates and to prevent children from being indoctrinated in public schools by Critical Race Theory.

While COVID was certainly an issue that warranted some action, it never should have included trampling on the rights of the people. And we definitely should not be wasting tax dollars on lessons that teach public school students that one race, ethnic group, or sex is in any way superior to another.

Not surprisingly, these laws sent teachers’ unions into a tailspin. As students headed back to campus, some Arizona schools decided to teach students that it’s ok to violate the law. And the Arizona Board of Regents recently announced that all three state universities will require their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 8.

Then, there’s the lawsuit

>>> READ MORE >>>

Flagstaff Charter School Board President Resigns After Calling Maskless Students ‘Worst of Humanity’

Flagstaff Charter School Board President Resigns After Calling Maskless Students ‘Worst of Humanity’

By Corinne Murdock |

The governing board president of Flagstaff charter school Northern Preparatory Academy (NPA), Cristy Schaefer Zeller, resigned Thursday evening after calling parents and students opposed to mask mandates “the worst of humanity who can’t STFU [shut the f*** up].” It isn’t immediately apparent what prompted Zeller’s social media post, but that same day several students refused to wear masks as required by NPA’s mask mandate, which had just gone into effect.

In her resignation letter, Zeller said that those who were upset by her remarks and called for her resignation were bullies. Despite Zeller’s track record online of speaking freely about her beliefs, she claimed that she had no way of defending herself or standing up for her beliefs.

It doesn’t appear that NPA leadership wanted Zeller to resign. In an email obtained by AZ Free News, NPA Superintendent David Lykins told parents on Wednesday that Zeller’s comments were her own and not authorized or endorsed by any aspect of NPA. Lykins wrote:

Dear NPA Community,

I wanted to acknowledge that one of our NPA Governing Board Members had made statements on their Facebook account as a private citizen that do not reflect the core values of Northland Preparatory Academy. These comments are the views of an individual and they were not authorized or endorsed by the NPA Governing Board as a public body, NPA as a school, or NPA’s faculty and staff.

I have met with this Board member this afternoon and she has issued a public statement regarding this issue (see attached). Additionally, I would also like to share that all pertinent information surrounding these statements will be shared with the remainder of the Northland Preparatory Academy Governing Board for future discussions and planning at the Board level.

I received communication from an NPA parent today that shared the following, “leadership is an awesome responsibility, and as leaders we are human and make mistakes.” I agree with this statement, but also feel it is important to acknowledge our mistakes, learn from them and take actions to prevent them from happening again.

Zeller’s statement read:

I am proud to serve on the NPA Governing Board as its President. It has come to my attention that statements I made on my personal social media accounts have been circulating among the Flagstaff community. As a private citizen I work as an activist, however my personal opinions and politics are mine alone, and do not reflect those of Northland Preparatory Academy or its Governing Board. I continue to remain committed to NPA’s mission and the health and safety of our community, and making NPA a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all. (emphasis added)

In her post condemning those opposed to masks, Zeller cited that her fellow liberals, as well as a number of educators and health care workers she’d spoken with, were angry and frustrated. She claimed that Flagstaff’s socioeconomic systems are falling apart.

“[…] Us liberals tend to want to be fixers and empathetic and all the rainbows and unicorns. No more. As MTV taught us… it’s time to stop being polite and start being real. Get busy,” wrote Zeller. “I am not being dramatic. I have spoken with dozens of people in education and healthcare that are about to break, if they are not already broken. They are angry, sad, and defeated. They love their professions, but despise their jobs right now. The anger and frustration is electric. It did not have to be this way. We are so angry that we now have to spend our time dealing with the worst of humanity who can’t STFU about their freedom to choose about a piece of fabric on their face.” [emphasis added]

Last Friday, AZ Free News reported on Zeller’s Facebook post and her other social media posts ridiculing mask critics, Trump supporters, and Republicans as “idiot a**holes” and intellectually inferior. At the time of publication, Zeller’s Facebook and Twitter pages containing these remarks were public.

Zeller’s resignation letter is reproduced below:

To the Members of the Northland Preparatory Academy Governing Board and Administration:

I have come to the very difficult decision that it is time for me to resign my position as President and Member of the Northland Preparatory Governing Board effective immediately. I am immensely proud of the work we have done together over the last five years. Our accomplishments together include:

Hiring of a new Superintendent

-A Board Statement on Gun Violence

-A Board Acknowledgment of Racism at NPA and a plan to address it, which included the establishment of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

-Navigating the last 17 months of the COVID-19 pandemic

-The courageous decision to mandate masks on the NPA campus this fall.

I care deeply for the students and faculty of NPa, and a large part of me feels that I am abandoning them at a time when strong leadership is more important than ever. It is antithetical to who I am that I would allow someone else to bully or pressure me into such a decision, however I find the current situation to be untenable.

The personal toll that the last 17 months has taken on me and my family has finally become too much. The attacks I have endured are unacceptable and unwarranted. This did not start yesterday. It began over a year ago. My husband, myself and my children have experienced negative backlash in small and large ways because of my strong stances on public health and anti-racism.

Over the last 48 hours I have received DOZENS of harassing emails, phone calls and text messages. I must prioritize my mental health over this continued abuse, especially when I cannot defend myself or stand up for what I believe in.

I have been targeted by a few individuals and I fear that they will continue to escalate this according to a playbook being followed around the United States. I want to remove myself from the situation, as the longer this goes on, the more you are all distracted from the incredibly important tasks ahead, and the more ineffective I become in my role.

I will work in whatever capacity you all would like to help transition the committees I chair and my notes from the last Board meeting. You will just need to let me know how and if you would like me to assist with the transition.

I admire you all deeply and I hope you know that this decision weighs very heavily on my heart and will for some time. I will be supporting you as a member of the public and fellow parent.

I will continue to advocate for children in the most important ways. I hope that NPA will continue to make every decision student-centered, just as I am doing now.

As of press time for this report, Zeller’s social media pages and all posts relevant to this and other related reports have been either removed or made private.

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

Flagstaff Charter School Board President Resigns After Calling Maskless Students ‘Worst of Humanity’

Flagstaff Charter School Board President: Students Against Masks ‘Worst of Humanity’

By Corinne Murdock |

The board president of Northland Preparatory Academy (NPA), a Flagstaff charter school, called parents and students who disagree with mask mandates “the worst of humanity who can’t STFU [shut the f*** up]” about their freedom. Governing Board President Cristy Schaefer Zeller leveled these criticisms in a Facebook post late Friday night. Zeller’s complaints followed the first day of NPA’s reinstated mask mandate, during which three students reportedly refused to wear masks.

“We are so angry that we now have to spend our time dealing with the worst of humanity who can’t STFU about their freedom to choose about a piece of fabric on their face,” wrote Zeller.

Zeller called Arizona, Florida, and Texas “banana republics.” She claimed all of Flagstaff’s systems were “falling apart.” Zeller also suggested they treat those expressing opposing beliefs as “a**hole[s]” and “bullies.”

“Don’t be crazy and cause a police situation but show support. We know what to do with bullies. Do it,” wrote Zeller.

Zeller’s social media posts generally depict Republicans in a negative light, calling them “a**holes” and intellectually inferior.

In response to a tweet from Stop the Steal founder Ali Alexander saying that he would give his life to fight for the truth about the election, retweeted by the Arizona Republican Party, Zeller called Trump supporters “idiot a**holes.”

“Apparently these idiot a**holes are ready to die for @realDonaldTrump,” wrote Zeller.

In reference to the October 7 debate between then-Vice President Mike Pence and current Vice President Kamala Harris, Zeller insinuated that Pence had the mental acuity of a toddler.

“Maybe @vp touched his butt hole and then touched his eyes and got pink eye. Like a toddler,” wrote Zeller.

As of press time, Zeller’s post criticizing those opposed to masks was public. The entirety of Zeller’s post is reproduced below:

“What’s on my mind Facebook? A whole crap ton of anxiety. That’s what is on my mind.

I am deeply worried about our educators and health care workers. I have seen and heard things this week that are frankly shocking. Things that are unacceptable in the wealthiest country in the world.

Maybe it’s better in states that aren’t devolved banana republics like Arizona (I see you TX and FL). Here, in Flagstaff, AZ, our systems are falling apart in very frightening ways. I am not being dramatic. I have spoken with dozens of people in education and healthcare that are about to break, if they are not already broken. They are angry, sad, and defeated. They love their professions, but despise their jobs right now.

The anger and frustration is electric. It did not have to be this way. We are so angry dealing with the worst of humanity who can’t STFU about their freedom to choose about a piece of fabric on their face.

So what do we do? We know we can’t change minds of a portion of the population. I can’t waste my time on them anymore. My like-minded people, here is what we can do:

*If you see someone being an a**hole (picketing your child’s school, accosting a school administrator, demanding unreasonable things from a health care provider)… step in. Be brave. Be a helper. Don’t be crazy and cause a police situation but show support. We know what to do with bullies. Do it.

*Write a thank you note, send an email to the educators and healthcare workers in your life. The small things make all the difference.

*Become an activist. Write your lawmakers, submit public comment and demand better.

*Be kind and patient. If things are imperfect or inconvenient at the school or the hospital, know that the front line person you are talking to is not to blame. They showed up for work. It’s a systemic problem resulting from lack of staffing, general a**holery from the highest levels, messed up politics, lack of funding, and things beyond their control.

Finally.. Us liberals tend to want to be fixers and empathetic and all the rainbows and unicorns. No more. As MTV taught us… it’s time to stop being polite and start being real. Get busy.”

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