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Governor gives cities, counties power to require masks in public

Berto Cortez, a CVS pharmacy technician, shows how COVID-19 tests are processed in a testing area set up by CVS at St. Vincent de Paul medical clinic, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Phoenix. The Arizona Department of Health Services posted on its website Monday another 1,104 cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths, bringing the statewide total number of coronavirus cases to 36,705 and related deaths to 1,194. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Berto Cortez, a CVS pharmacy technician, shows how COVID-19 tests are processed in a testing area set up by CVS at St. Vincent de Paul medical clinic, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Phoenix. The Arizona Department of Health Services posted on its website Monday another 1,104 cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths, bringing the statewide total number of coronavirus cases to 36,705 and related deaths to 1,194. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona cities and counties are getting the power to require people there to wear masks.

The permission from Gov. Doug Ducey comes less than a week after he specifically rejected the concept of local control on issues of public health. He argued the state needs a standard and uniform policy — and, in this case, one that does not require masks.

What changed, according to Ducey aides, is the governor received a “very compelling” letter from officials in the state’s four border counties.

“We have all been tirelessly advocating that our residents adhere to the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, including the washing of hands, avoiding close contact, and wearing of face masks around others,” the officials wrote. And they said that the most significant of those is the use of face masks in public, something the governor has refused to mandate and they cannot require themselves.

“The reality is that since the state relaxed the stay-at-home executive order, many residents have interpreted this to mean that the danger is over,” they wrote.

They backed that up with hard data, including a 157 percent increase in COVID-19 patients in Santa Cruz County between June 1 and June 11. The total now is 914 cases in Santa Cruz, 3,628 in Pima, 2,942 in Yuma and 206 in Cochise.

But it isn’t just the counties that have been pressuring the governor.

The move comes on the heels of what is now more than 900 medical professionals signing a letter to the governor asking him to issue a statewide mandate requiring anyone age 2 and older to wear a mask. They cited the lack of a vaccine or proven treatment, saying that the disease is just as contagious now as it was when he implemented his stay-at-home directive.

“There is sufficient, clear, scientific evidence that wearing masks is one way to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and thus would reduce both the wave of severely affected patients requiring ICU and ventilator resources as well as unnecessary deaths,” they wrote.

They also sought to appeal to the governor’s desire to restart the economy, saying a mask requirement accomplishes a lot without having to reimpose the kinds of restrictions on business and travel that he had before.

“Keeping the economy growing while maintaining universal masking and social distancing is a win-win situation for every member of the community regardless of political views in that it balances economics with public health,” the letter states.

But not all the messages to Ducey have been so friendly.

Sen, Kyrsten Sinema, who has repeatedly complained about Ducey’s policies, is upping her rhetoric, now attacking the governor’s statements that his earlier orders were designed to “flatten the curve” to ensure the state’s health care system would not be overwhelmed.

“I don’t think it makes sense to design your policy on whether or not there are enough hospital beds for people to die in,” she told a KTAR radio show.

It also comes as some cities already were looking at going their own way on the issue — with or without the governor’s blessing.

In Tucson, Mayor Regina Romero said she has directed the city attorney to amend the existing local proclamation to require that people wear masks in public — regardless of what the governor says.

“This is the moment in time where we have to decide,” she told Capitol Media Services even before the governor’s announcement. “Every day we wait means lives.”

And Councilman Steve Kozachik cited a provision of the city charter giving the council “to make all regulations which may be necessary or expedient for the preservation of the health and the suppression of disease,” saying that exists with or without Ducey’s permission.

He said this community-by-community approach makes sense.

“Conditions are different in different jurisdictions,” Kozachik said.

“What is the same is the science,” he said.”Science wins. Mother Nature bats last and she’s going to say, ‘This is a virus and it does what it does.’ “

Ducey’s voluntary approach had its supporters, including Martha McSally, the state’s other senator.

“It’s up to Arizonans to take care of each other,” she said in a KTAR interview.

“We’ve got to do our part,” McSally said.”We don’t sit back and wait for government edicts.”

3 comments

  1. So this is what you get when you pander to the orange blob in the WH, just to appease his fragile ego and open up the economy without a plan to ensure everyone stays safe! Ducey is stupid and this just proved it. Republicans are all for local control, telling the feds to stay out of our local business UNTIL it serves them. Now he gives communities local control to mandate masks – duh! this would save lives and start to flatten the curve – look at the data and science. We’ve made national news the last several days thanks to his pathetic leadership. And McSally’s statement is a lie and worthless. During a worldwide pandemic the Gov’t needs to take charge, focus on the science, pull all the levels of agencies to control the spread; instead we watched for months in horror, the WH didn’t care and twiddle it’s thumbs and tell it’s citizens to inject uv lights and drink bleach. AZ’s response isn’t any better and to prove my point – Ducey REFUSED to communicate with Democratic mayors to work on a statewide plan that would work, again based on science. Instead he made this all about him and politics.

  2. This isn’t Ducey’s fault. As a sycophant Republican he’s only trying to please Trump. We will never have an exact number on how many people have died because Trump-Ducey have taken a politics-before-humans approach to this pandemic. Did Ducey really argue that “the state needs a standard and uniform policy” ? By now it’s clear there has been no policy at all, just knee-jerk reactions. With some independent thought, Ducey can do better. We have no leadership in Washington, but he could leas here in AZ. Just because he’s a Republican doesn’t mean he has to act like one.

  3. With headlines like this, it’s no wonder people remain so incredibly ignorant about how our government was designed to work. Ducey cannot convey authority to local governments that he himself doesn’t have. Take a look at the state Constitution, it grants virtually no emergency authority to the governor. His executive orders have been unlawful from the start.

    I was shocked at some of the measures Gallego ordered for Phoenix initially but at least her actions are actually within the authority granted to her by the city charter.

    It doesn’t really matter, though, when we have people calling for government to do anything at all, if it makes them feel better.

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