Peoria is back to requiring masks in city buildings for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, following a recent change in COVID-19 health guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The updated guidance from the federal CDC is recommending that in areas of higher transmission, such as in Maricopa County, masks should be used in indoor settings by both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
With this in mind, beginning July 29, the city of Peoria will be requiring all city employees and visitors to wear masks inside city buildings.
This applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
City Manager Jeff Tyne said Peoria continues to closely monitor infection rates, and follow the health and safety recommendations offered by public health officials. As a reminder, city officials ask residents to stay home if they are symptomatic, maintain social distancing and wash hands regularly.
For more information on vaccination sites, testing locations and health and safety measures, visit peoriaaz.gov/covid19.
Throughout the pandemic, the city has consistently followed guidance provided by the CDC, Tyne said.
“The city of Peoria took action at our facilities in an abundance of caution. We regret the inconvenience to our residents and customers, and will be closely monitoring advice from various public health agencies to ensure that such protocols do not persist beyond what is necessary,” he said.
The new requirement from the city comes on the hels of a rise in cases of COVID-19 and the emergence of the Delta variant, which has been responsible for much of the recent increase and appears to be deadlier than earlier versions of the virus responsible for an estimated 610,000 deaths nationally since the start of the pandemic, officials say.
Health care workers in and around Phoenix are once again springing into action as an uptick in severe COVID-19 cases rattles hospitals.
Dr. Michael White, chief clinical officer for Valleywise Health in Phoenix, said in a news briefing July 22 the health care system has seen an increase in hospitalizations in recent weeks, which places additional stress on health care workers and requires more resources.
White said the spike is “unfortunate” given the success rate of the prevalent COVID-19 vaccines.
“The team rallies but they are tired from this,” Dr. White said of Valleywise staffers. “We do not need to see another large spike in our communities when we have this tool available.”
There are currently 12 patients hospitalized at the Valleywise Health Medical Center with acute symptoms of the virus, the bulk of whom are in the intensive care unit, according to White.
That’s in addition to the higher volume of patients seeking medical care and screenings they put off in 2020.
ADHS reported approximately 1,479 additional cases and seven deaths July 23. Of those, Maricopa County recorded 1,020 cases and five deaths. It is the highest daily case count in more than a week.
In the Peoria area as of July 22, cases were at 28,052 compared with 27,683 that time a week earlier, a difference of 369, according to Arizona Department of Health Services.
With just more than 51% of the state’s population fully vaccinated, doctors like White are pleading with people to take advantage of the vaccine, which has shown to present little-to-no side effects.
White said Valleywise’s 4,800 employees know the drill now after two previous surges, one in July and one last winter, and masks continue to be required in all clinical and administrative areas of its facilities.
Officials say vaccinating more of the community will be key to ensuring the health care system doesn’t get overwhelmed by an avoidable resurgence of the virus.
Editor’s note: reporters Lindsay Walker and Matt Roy contributed to this report.
Philip Haldiman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.