masks

Fourteen local businesses — grocery stores, restaurants, bars and a hardware store — have been reported by residents as being out of compliance with Pima County’s face covering resolution.

Complaints against 13 establishments in Sahuarita and seven in Green Valley have been reported to the county health department since the resolution went into effect June 19.

Half the complaints were made anonymously. The county is not investigating the anonymous complaints but is “noting” them, according to a county spokesman.

Four of the 10 complaints that meet the county’s criteria to start an investigation remain open; the other six are closed and the businesses have been contacted by the health department.

In June, the Pima County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution requiring masks in public for anybody over the age of 5 where social distancing is not possible but said it would not enforce it against individuals, only against businesses and their employees.

Sahuarita Mayor Tom Murphy and town attorney Dan Hochuli came out in opposition to the county’s resolution arguing businesses and residents in the town need only follow CDC and state guidelines and that the county had no authority in its boundaries.

The competing messages left many businesses wondering whether they should require masks in town limits.

Attempting to settle any confusion, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry clarified the county’s argument for the Pima County Health Department’s jurisdiction over Sahuarita businesses and outlined enforcement actions that would be taken against those in violation of the mask wearing resolution.

Complaints against businesses are submitted to the health department website. Once a complaint is received the establishment is contacted and educated about the resolution. A second complaint received within 48 hours of the first triggers a site visit and additional education. If the second complaint is found to be valid it will be posted on the county website at www.pima.gov/facecoverings. None had been posted as of Tuesday afternoon.

Repeat offenders will be referred to the Board of Supervisors for further enforcement.

The Green Valley News/Sahuarita Sun is not identifying businesses by name because it is uncertain which, if any, of the complaints have been substantiated by the county.

Open investigations

The complaint against a hardware store alleges it has “taken an anti-mask stand” because the store doesn’t have a sign on the door requiring masks and the person complaining was told the store employees “are not the mask police.”

The resolution does not require businesses to require patrons or customers to wear masks, it is left to the business’ discretion.

A bar was reported for promoting a karaoke event to be held over the July Fourth weekend “to pack in unmasked, high risk, drinking seniors,” according to the complaint.

“A friend of mine who lived blocks from this bar, died of COVID-19 on June 27…. How can the county and state allow this high risk bar to remain open?” the complaint read.

Some of the complaints also allege violations of the county’s May 19 proclamation that established measures for reopening of businesses and activities.

A complaint against a Green Valley resort alleges its pool area was overcrowded, nobody was wearing masks, there was “no control of people out drinking,” and “no security enforcing any type of rules.”

A Green Valley dine-in restaurant’s co-owner was not wearing a mask on July 3, according to another complaint.

Fast food restaurants in Sahuarita were reported for having employees who did not wear masks or gloves while preparing food or serving customers and for cleanliness issues. Two received multiple complaints.

“Only three-fifths [of] employees were wearing masks. One was wearing it on their chin and the other did not have their nose covered,” one of the complaints said. “The tables [have] visible crumbs and the floor was very sticky.”

“Facility is operating with none of the employees wearing masks. No sanitizer was observed on any of the work stations either,” another complaint against a fast food restaurant said.

Closed complaints

A Green Valley restaurant with a liquor license was accused by a non-resident for violating the mask resolution and the proclamation. “No social distancing, no masks on guests or servers. Live music. All tables occupied including the bar.” The complaint was made anonymously.

“Today I stopped at the food mart and noticed that nobody was wearing a mask or even attempting to social distance,” one complaint against a Sahuarita gas station said. “Somebody needs to enforce these violations so I’m doing my part in reporting.”

Another anonymous complaint alleged a Green Valley restaurant was not sterilizing menus between uses.

An anonymous customer at a Sahuarita fast food restaurant told a drive-thru cashier they would report them for not wearing a face mask and the cashier “shrugged it off,” according to one complaint. “The youth that work in and around [the Green Valley] community should especially be hyper-vigilant of this but aren’t.”

Employees at a different Sahuarita fast food establishment told a customer who asked why they weren’t wearing masks “they did not have to comply” with the county resolution.

And a Sahuarita fast food chain manager “who is rude” told a customer they did not have to wear masks but when the customer called the corporate office they were told employees are required to wear them, according to a complaint.

Enforcing all the rules

Huckelberry released a memo this week detailing countywide enforcement actions of the face mask resolution, the May proclamation and Gov. Doug Ducey's June 29 executive order re-closing bars and gyms.

The county visited 168 establishments with a series 6 or 7 liquor license and referred 11 to the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control for non-compliance of the governor's order.

Complaints against five gyms and fitness centers were received, three of them owned by Orange Theory.

The county also received complaints from employees who tested positive for COVID-19 and said their employers required them to continue to work. Huckelberry said he asked the county attorney about establishing an anonymous tip line for employees to report this kind of activity.

The week of June 23-30 the county received 72 May proclamation complaints and 112 mask resolution complaints.

"As you can see we are taking these complaints very seriously and will continue to perfect the processes to receive and respond to these complaints, and to pursue enforcement for these that warrant enforcement," Huckelberry said.