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Border officers in Arizona now must wear masks during pandemic

Border officers in Arizona now must wear masks during pandemic

From the May's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Ducey distributes one-fourth of state federal relief money to locals series

Residents across Arizona have expressed concern Border Patrol agents and customs officers were not wearing protective masks at checkpoints and ports of entry or while driving.

Border Patrol agents and customs officers in southern Arizona now must wear protective masks when dealing with the public during the coronavirus pandemic.

Officers and agents are “required at this time to use agency-approved masks when performing job functions that entail an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19,” including “primary passenger processing, inspection duties at immigration checkpoints, and interactions at ports of entry,” the public affairs office for Customs and Border Protection in Arizona said in a statement Wednesday.

Early in the pandemic, CBP supplied employees with nitrile gloves, N95 respirators, eye protection, and disposable outer garments, according to the statement. The agency also issued guidance to all employees about the “risk-based, job-specific use” of personal protective equipment.

CBP has set aside funding to procure additional protective equipment if needed, the agency said.

Local residents from Bisbee to Nogales to Ajo have expressed concern in recent weeks that Border Patrol agents and customs officers were not wearing protective masks at checkpoints and ports of entry or while driving around town.()

On April 7, a man coughed directly into the face of a customs officer in Nogales, saying he believed all customs officers already were infected with the coronavirus, according to documents filed in federal court in Tucson. He now faces a misdemeanor charge of assaulting a federal officer.

As of May 12, four CBP employees have died as a result of the virus, according to the CBP website. CBP did not say in which states those employees worked.

Across the country, CBP reported 346 employees tested positive for the coronavirus, including six in Arizona.

No new cases among CBP employees in Arizona have been reported since early April.

Contact reporter Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or cprendergast@tucson.com or on Twitter @CurtTucsonStar

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