Gov. Doug Ducey announced Wednesday he is allowing local governments to set their own policies on face coverings and decide their own enforcement measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Ducey said the decision came after meeting with local mayors and county administrators whose regions are experiencing increased cases of the disease and asked for an additional tool to help slow transmission. It also came six days after he said there would be no changes in state policy despite a sharp increase in cases.
Sahuarita Mayor Tom Murphy said he will consult Thursday with the town manager and town attorney and then comment.
Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino, who was at the meeting with Ducey, asked for authorization to mandate the wearing of face masks in public and where social distancing is not possible. Ducey agreed.
“We are going to change and update guidance so that local governments can implement mask and face covering policies and determine enforcement,” Ducey said in an afternoon press conference. “Border counties are dealing with unique issues, this allows local leaders to tailor policies.”
Ducey presented a map illustrating the uniqueness of COVID’s effects at the local level. For example, 31% of all tests being administered in Santa Cruz County are returning positive as opposed to 3% in Yavapai County.
“On some things a statewide directive or executive order works very well,” Ducey said when asked why not issue a statewide order. “On other things if you do this and you don’t have maximum compliance... If you have 12 or 13 counties that say pound sand on an executive order because that doesn’t reflect our situation, it’s a self-defeating Executive Order.”
Ducey said any policy a mayor comes up with will “likely will be dramatically different in Nogales than it is in Prescott.”
The governor stressed the most important aspect of this change in the state’s guidance is educating the public on the importance of wearing masks, not on enforcement and issuing tickets.
“We’ve seen studies supported by real data that speaks to the effectiveness of these face masks,” he said. “Every Arizonan should wear a face mask.
“This is an issue of personal responsibility and we’re asking Arizonans to make responsible decisions to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.”
“So if you remember one thing,” Ducey said. “It is that COVID-19 is widespread in Arizona.”
The Pima County Board of Supervisors will be a holding a special meeting Friday to consider its options in light of Ducey's announcement.
“I believe the Board will do everything it can to protect the health of the people of Pima County,” Board Chairman Ramón Valadez said in a press release.
“We have to get control of this outbreak. We’ve lost too many lives already. If the subcommittee says everyone should be wearing a mask, then the board should use the unique powers granted to the County Health Department by state law and make it a requirement of the public until it becomes safe to stop.”
Earlier Wednesday, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero tweeted that she had directed the city attorney "to work on amending our local emergency proclamation to require wearing masks in public."
Marana Mayor Ed Honea did not immediately return calls for comment.