Acting Pima County Administrator Jan Lesher has revised the county’s rules for mask-wearing in county buildings – now making masks recommended rather than required, according to a Monday press release by the county.

The new building mask rule goes into effect Saturday, March 12th, and applies to all staff and visitors to county buildings, according to the press release. However, some county facilities, such as health clinics, will still require masking at the discretion of the county’s chief medical officer.

“We’ve been down this road before with COVID, where the disease seems to be receding and then it comes roaring back worse than before, so I’m relaxing these mitigation rules with cautious optimism,” Lesher said in a statement. “The county, like everyone else, needs to be vigilant about Covid and not consider the pandemic over. We may need to tighten the mitigation strategies again if there is another major spike.”

Lesher’s decision came from the “plummeting” of COVID-19 cases and “the Centers for Disease Control revising its guidance for Covid mitigation,” according to the press release. Lesher said another factor influencing her decision was the 90 percent vaccination rate of county staff.

“I’m extremely proud of the county staff and how they’ve done all we’ve asked to not only protect themselves and their families but also the greater Pima County community. They have led by example, and you can’t ask for much more than that from your workforce,” Lesher said in a statement.

Charged with the well-being of the state’s second-largest county with over a million Arizonans, the Pima County Board of Supervisors has also decided to resume in-person board meetings at its next meeting, March 15th. The public will not have to wear a mask for board meetings, but the Hearing Room will still adhere to physical distancing, reducing the room’s capacity by about two-thirds of its 280-person maximum, the press release notes.

In Arizona, the average positive test rate for COVID-19 was 7.7% as of Sunday. One month ago, the average positive test rate was 31.1%, according to data compiled by The Mayo Clinic.

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Kaitlin Housler is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network.
Photo “Masks Off” by Williamson County Schools.