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Coconino County Reinstates Mask Mandate In Buildings Amid COVID-19 Surge

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AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
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Coconino County has reinstated a mask mandate inside all of its buildings amid a renewed spike in COVID-19 infections. Low vaccination rates and the Delta variant are driving increased case numbers nationwide. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

Coconino County health officials recently returned the local COVID transmission rate to high status as the percentage of positive tests rose above 11%. According to the county’s most recent virus update, numbers of new weekly infections are nearing levels seen a year ago, well before vaccines were available.

"We haven’t seen a spike like this since last spring, and so it’s certainly alarming. Our numbers are trending in the wrong direction. And it also compares differently because we have more and more variants that are prevalent," says county Health and Human Services Director Kim Musselman.

Musselman says, like the U.S. as a whole, a majority of newly confirmed cases are the highly infectious Delta variant and among the unvaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all people wear masks indoors in areas with high transmission levels, like Coconino County. The CDC also says teachers, staff, students and visitors at K-12 schools should mask up.

According the Arizona Department of Health Services, just under half of Coconino County residents are fully vaccinated against the virus, slightly higher than the statewide rate.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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