Tucson will mandate the wearing of masks starting Saturday and Pima County is likely close behind. But whether the county’s ruling would include towns such as Sahuarita and Marana is still unclear. So is how — or if — a county mandate would be enforced.
The tussle over jurisdiction began Wednesday, shortly after Gov. Doug Ducey said local entities could make the call on whether masks would be required in public. That came less than a week after a spike in coronavirus cases statewide and Ducey’s assurance that he wouldn’t be changing the rules as the state continued to reopen.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, long a proponent of mandatory face coverings in public, signed a proclamation Thursday requiring them for those ages 2 and up starting at 6 a.m. Saturday.
Pima County set an emergency meeting for 3 p.m. Friday to look at “Countywide actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” according to an agenda.
The meeting will be broadcast at pima.gov and the hearing room will be open to the public, with restrictions. The meeting includes a call to the public, which is expected to draw a number of speakers. Comments may be emailed to: COB_mail@pima.com.
Pima County said in a press release Wednesday that any mandate would apply to all areas of the county, “irrespective of jurisdiction, except for the tribal nations.”
Local mayors aren’t so sure.
Sahuarita Mayor Tom Murphy said Thursday he would release a statement on Ducey’s decision within the next 24 hours.
Sahuarita, which reopened its Town Hall to the public May 8, joined Marana in opposing Pima County’s added restrictions on restaurants when they reopened last month. Murphy and Marana Mayor Ed Honea said the county overstepped its boundaries, with Honea declaring “we’re not going to be the cops for the county order.”
Honea struck a similar tone Thursday on face masks.
“I think it’s way overreach,” he said, adding he doesn’t think the county has the authority to make the rules for incorporated towns and cities. “I will not enforce it.”
“I want our people to be safe but if people are at the park walking or out getting some air, I don’t want to mandate that they have to wear a mask, or even people out there working in this heat,” he said.
Honea, who said he wears a mask in public when there are a lot of people around, said he’s been getting calls from Tucson and Oro Valley.
“They’re saying, ‘Hey, keep yours stores open because we’re coming to Marana to shop,’” he said.
He and Murphy have questions about who would enforce mask policies.
“Who’s going to be the mask police?” Honea said. “What are you going to do? Are we going to set up if you don’t wear a mask you get a fine? I’m not sending my police officers out to be mask police.”
Pima County spokesman Mark Evans said counties have the authority under federal and state law “to take actions appropriate to contain contagious diseases.”
He said there are several state statutes that give counties broad authority to protect public health.
Among those he cited:
•ARS 11-251(17), which allows county boards to “Adopt provisions necessary to preserve the health of the county, and provide for the expenses thereof.”
•ARS 36-183.02, which says, “Each county shall investigate all nuisances, sources of filth and causes of sickness and make regulations necessary for the public health and safety of the inhabitants.”
•ARS 36-624, which allows a county to “adopt quarantine and sanitary measures … to prevent the spread of the disease.”
Among the provisions in Romero’s nine-page proclamation covering Tucson:
•Face coverings are required “in a public setting where continuous physical distancing is difficult or impossible.”
•Businesses whose employees interact with the public must require employees to wear face coverings.
•Public settings include indoor settings accessible to the public, including grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants and bars, health care facilities and gyms.
•Outdoor spaces where people congregate, including where there are lines.
•In or on public transit, including buses, taxis and shared rides. Not required in personal vehicles.