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Experts urge masks for all in AZ. Ducey says it's personal choice

Public health policies and politics continue to collide in Arizona.  Pima County is reimposing a mask requirement in public places as the omicron variant spreads. But Gov. Doug Ducey says that kind of mandate is unenforceable in the state.

In response to Pima County’s plan, Ducey tweeted Arizonans who want to wear a mask can, but he said he believes it’s a personal choice. 

"Arizona law clearly states businesses are NOT REQUIRED to enforce mask mandates that any city, town, county or other jurisdiction in this state established," Ducey tweeted. 

But medical experts say the state does need more public health interventions to avoid a health care crisis.

“The science is there. Masks work," Dr. Joe Gerald, with the University of Arizona's Zuckerman College of Public Health, told KJZZ News. "We know, or are almost certain another wave is going to happen, so this would help us relieve pressure on our already overwhelmed hospitals.”

The state’s hospitals remain at near-record occupancy levels, while experts warn  the worst of the omicron wave is yet to come. The  White House this week identified Arizona as one of six states in need of immediate assistance as hospitals struggle to meet demand.

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.