On a night when the Maricopa City Council meeting was short on both action and drama, it stood out from other council meetings since the pandemic began early last year: it wasn’t on Zoom and there were no masks. Or plexiglass dividers on the dais.
There were, however, a lot of smiles to be seen on Tuesday night at City Hall.
“It makes it so much better,” said councilmember Rich Vitiello. “With constituents, if we’re six feet apart, it’s fine. If we’re across the table, it’s fine. But if somebody wants to talk, I follow their lead. I’m following city policy. Rich’s policy is, I’ve got my shots, I’ve got nothing to worry about, so you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
City Manager Rick Horst said the removal of mandates by Mayor Christian Price and Gov. Doug Ducey helped spur the decision to lift mitigation protocols in council chambers. He said the city still provides masks at the front counters of city buildings to any visitor who wants to wear one. When city staff meets with the public, they start with masks, then ask the visitor about their comfort level, deciding from there whether to continue wearing their mask.
“The bottom line is that the Arizona numbers have dropped and we’re not seeing those spikes that other cities are seeing,” Horst said. “People seem to be pretty comfortable with it. I don’t know if you noticed but a lot of the stores in town have taken their (masks required) signs down, and things are just looking much, much better.”
Councilmember Amber Liermann, a counselor at Maricopa High School, where she is required to wear a mask all day, was particularly appreciative of the end to the mask mandate.
“I wear it all day, so it’s nice to not have to wear it all night,” she said. On the day of a council meeting, she said she will have already worn her mask since 7 a.m.
“I might have to have a mask on for 12 or 14 hours in a day,” she said. “It’s really nice to be able to come here and not have to wear it. I also go to Copper Sky almost every morning and we don’t have to wear them there anymore, and it’s just so nice. We’re getting there. We’re making progress.”