Arizona Republican lawmaker urges state to 'unmask'

Republican Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.) is urging people to "unmask" and fight back against restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, arguing the policies are "oppressive" and have been worse than the disease itself. 

Biggs, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, made the comments in a series of tweets published this week. On Wednesday, he tweeted it was time for Arizona to take a new approach that "values and protects all life."

"We must give hope to the public and set forth a plan to reopen the economy and remove oppressive gov't restrictions," he said, adding the hashtag #ReOpenArizona.

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"Right now, the cure for COVID-19 has proved worse than the disease itself," he wrote. 

The post followed a pair of tweets sent earlier this week calling for people to flout health guidelines and stop wearing face coverings. 

"Government bureaucrats have taken enough freedoms away from us. No more," he said, adding the hashtag #UnMaskArizona.

The coronavirus pandemic led to the mass shuttering of businesses and schools throughout the country in March. While many states have gradually reopened, restrictions on gatherings and policies requiring people to wear masks remain widespread.

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Arizona Gov. Doug DuceyDoug DuceyKelly's lead widens to 10 points in Arizona Senate race: poll Polls show trust in scientific, political institutions eroding Coronavirus victim's daughter: Dad could have been spared if Trump told public what he told Woodward MORE (R) said in June he wanted citizens to “wear masks when they can't socially distance" and allowed local governments to enforce requirements for face coverings. However, he declined to impose a statewide order. 

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people wear masks when social distancing cannot be practiced, noting it may help prevent people with the virus from spreading it to others. Research has also found that face coverings can play a significant role in thwarting outbreaks. 

Wearing surgical masks can reduce the spread of COVID-19 by as much as 75 percent, according to a study released by Hong Kong University researchers in May. A German study from June found face coverings could reduce transmission by roughly 40 percent. 

Daniel Stefanski, a Biggs spokesman, told The Arizona Republic that the congressman does not "believe that he knows better, nor does he believe that an organization or study knows what is best for him."

"He, along with each of his constituents, should have the freedom to choose what is best for themselves, their families, and their loved ones in any health scenario," Stefanski said. 

As of Tuesday, Arizona health officials had reported roughly 206,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and about 5,200 deaths caused by it. The state has recorded about 2,873 cases per 100,000 people, according to a CDC tracker, the fourth highest rate in the nation.