On June 17, Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ sat down at a long table to begin a news conference.
Both were wearing masks.
It was a hint that things were going to change—quickly. The wheels started spinning on regulations requiring masks in cities like Glendale, where fines for not wearing a mask can be up to $250, and, ultimately, all of Maricopa County.
Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers’ mask proclamation came two days after Ducey’s warning words.
“COVID-19 is widespread in the state of Arizona, and Arizonans must act responsibly to protect one another,” Ducey said.
In the week before Ducey’s conference, COVID-19 cases in Maricopa County jumped from 15,000 to 22,000, then passed 33,000 this week. Glendale 85301 had 791 positive tests June 23, one of the most of any ZIP Code in the state.
In the last week, 90 died of COVID-19 in the county, bringing the total of deaths caused by coronavirus in the county to 630. The number hospitalized by COVID-19 in Maricopa County rose from 1,953 to 2,272 in the last week.
Ducey urged “all Arizonans wear face masks when you can’t social distance … to help protect vulnerable communities and reduce infection rates.”
He did not make a statewide order, instead stressing mayors should set mask policies: “We’re going to empower local officials.”
Some cities rushed to take action; others, like Glendale, took more time.
On June 18, less than 24 hours after Ducey’s conference, Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar signed a proclamation requiring face coverings in public places the morning of June 20. Also June 18, Avondale Mayor Kenn Weise ordered patrons of Avondale businesses to wear masks starting June 21.
Peoria was slower to act. Around 1 p.m. June 19, Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat said, “Peoria continues to adhere to the CDC guidelines that have already been put forth, and we have not created a separate policy yet.”
Hours later, after the county announced masks were required, Carlat said masks would be required of people in public places in Peoria.
Weiers met with city council June 19, listening to their views as well as a wide variety of citizens.
But Weiers did not have council vote, instead coming to a decision himself late in the afternoon June 19.
Weiers issued a proclamation requiring masks be worn in public as of June 20.
“This proclamation will mandate the use of face coverings for those in Glendale ages 6 and older in all public situations where social distancing may not be followed,” Weiers said.
The proclamation allows for several exceptions, including those who cannot wear a facial covering due to medical or mental health conditions, developmental disabilities and those engaging in exercise and/or team sports.
And while those eating or drinking in a restaurant don’t have to wear a mask in Glendale, “If a patron is not seated at their table or other designated eating area, a face covering is required.”
The Glendale proclamation defines a face covering as a covering made of cloth, fabric or other soft or permeable material. “Face coverings must be without holes and should cover the nose, mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face. It should fit snug against the side of the face and remain in place without the use of a person’s hands,” the proclamation said.
“The COVID-19 virus has caused me to think about and consider policy issues that I could never have imagined a year ago,” Weiers said. “I take my responsibility for the welfare of our community seriously, and I cannot shy away from the impact COVID-19 has had throughout our community and beyond but instead must be resolute in my actions in doing what I feel to be right for the health and well-being of Glendale citizens and visitors.”
Glendale’s proclamation emphasizes education, as Ducey stressed.
“Private businesses and venues shall enforce this proclamation by asking any person failing to comply with the emergency proclamation to leave their premises. By allowing people/patrons to remain on the premises without a face covering as described above, is a violation of this emergency proclamation,” the proclamation stated.
“As a last resort, continued failure to comply with an emergency proclamation by a business owner and/or responsible party will be handled as a civil penalty up to but not to exceed a $250 fine.”
Phoenix put a mask requirement in place just after noon June 19, around the time the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors went into a private, executive-session meeting.
By the time Weiers came out with Glendale’s mask requirements, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors wrapped up a five-hour meeting and announced mask requirements for all cities in the county, beginning June 20.
According to the county guidelines, not wearing a mask in public comes with the risk of a warning for first-time offenders, followed by a $50 fine for those who refuse to comply.
Maricopa County’s proclamation noted, “These regulations set minimum standards for face coverings. Nothing in these regulations prohibits or impedes any city, town, other public entity or private entity from enacting and enforcing more restrictive regulations regarding the use of face coverings.”
Ducey said he is emphasizing education about the benefits of masks and social distancing, while providing funding for “contact tracing” of those who test positive, to determine who they potentially exposed.
He also had some stern words for businesses that are not following current guidelines (see Page 14).
“As we continue to expand testing and prioritize our most vulnerable populations, today’s stepped-up actions will help further contain the spread of COVID-19,” Ducey said.
“We need to redouble our efforts and we need everyone to do their part.”
With many West Valley high schools yet to celebrate graduations, Ducey issued a strong caution.
He said that, until recently, he could relate to those who say they “don’t know anyone with coronavirus.”
“Just recently I know a lot of people who have (tested positive),” Ducey said.
“They got it at graduation parties.”