Supervisors skip mandate, vote unanimously to ‘encourage’ face masks

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On a morning when three governors required anyone traveling to their state from Arizona to be self-quarantined for 14 days, Pinal County Board of Supervisors rejected a request to mandate residents wear face coverings in public.

The vote on a resolution encouraging rather than requiring use of face coverings was unanimous, though the debate was animated and emotional. One supervisor tried to insert an amendment that would require a mandate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The County Attorney’s Office also had its suggestion for mandated face masks in certain circumstances be overruled.

Supervisors also dismissed the opinion of the county health services director by saying available medical opinion was contradictory.

According to board clerk Natasha Kennedy, a total of 424 county residents wrote the board in favor of mandated face coverings while 115 wrote in opposition.

Republican Supervisors Todd House and Mike Goodman said the situation was “all about politics and nothing but politics.”

“We can’t take away personal responsibility,” Goodman said, later adding, “When we mandate and take away individual rights, we are passing a threshold that is very dangerous.”

After hearing from members of the public in person and in writing, the supervisors met in closed session for more than an hour before returning to discuss the issue in public.

Those who wrote in favor of a mandate said residents in the county were ignoring social distancing and did not care about the wellbeing of others. One said the supervisors were refusing to hear the majority. Several compared mandating face coverings to mandating the use of seatbelts.

One spoke of being told to stay home if she was afraid of going out without a mask mandate and said her family had already been at home for months.

“Those who won’t wear masks should stay home,” she wrote. “It’s their turn.”

Those opposed to the mandate argued that masks were dangerous, and a mandate infringed on their rights. They said they would vote against anyone who supported a mandate.

Dr. Shauna McIsaac, who heads the county health services department, said she supported a provision that was ultimately removed from the resolution.

“I strongly believe masks should be mandated,” McIsaac said.

She said the scientific evidence shows wearing a face mask helps limit the spread of COVID-19. Without a vaccine, face masks were the only way for residents to protect themselves in public, she said.

Democrat Supervisor Pete Rios said he voted for the resolution because it was “better than nothing” but wanted a mandate. Rios was the only supervisor to wear a mask in the meeting room. When supervisors removed proposed language that would have created a mandate, he proposed an amendment to add the mandate back in, to no avail.

The supervisors bandied the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, questioning the use and effectiveness of wearing a mask. Fauci had stated March 8 in a “60 Minutes” interview on CBS, “Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks,” and added they could be contributing to a mask shortage for healthcare workers.

Afterward, as COVID-19 spread and protective equipment more available, Fauci told the investment site TheStreet, “Masks are not 100 percent protective. However, they certainly are better than not wearing a mask.”

Tuesday, Fauci gave the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce his advice: “Plan A, don’t go in a crowd. Plan B, if you do, make sure you wear a mask,” Fauci said.

At Wednesday’s supervisors’ meeting, Chairman Anthony Smith of Maricopa, a Republican, said he wished the medical information was more clear. He also said the sheriff’s office would be overwhelmed with enforcement issues if mask-wearing became a mandate.

The resolution encouraging the use of face coverings in public is applicable to the unincorporated areas of Pinal County.

Text that was added after Friday’s meeting by County Attorney Kent Volkmer but then removed by supervisors today included:
    Face Coverings shall be mandated in the following circumstances:
a. When an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been informed by Pinal County Public Health that they have been in close contact         with someone who as tested positive they are required to wear a Face Covering in public until they no longer test positive or 14 days has lapsed,         which ever shall be applicable;
b. Whenever the public are inside or outside engaging or seeking Pinal County services unless it poses a greater physical or mental health risk           or one’s disability or religious beliefs prevent wearing a Face Covering.

The final text of the county resolution:

RESOLUTION NO.
062420 LSE 02
RESOLUTION OF THE PINAL COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS ENCOURAGING MITIGATION EFFORTS IN THE FORM OF FACE COVERINGS

WHEREAS, due to existing cases of COVID-19 within the State of Arizona and community spread of the illness within the State, on March 11, 2020, Governor Douglas A. Ducey declared a state of emergency for Arizona for COVID-19; and,

WHEREAS, multiple cases of COVID-19 have been identified within Pinal County and the situation is rapidly evolving with person-to-person transmission and continued community transmission; and

WHEREAS, the conditions and risk of increased exposures to residents of Pinal County have caused the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to declare a public health emergency; and issue a Declaration of Local State of Emergency on March 20, 2020; and

WHEREAS, A.R.S. § 26-311 authorizes the Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, during such emergency, to govern by proclamation and have the authority to impose all necessary regulations to preserve the peace and order of the county; and

WHEREAS, ON June 17, 2020, Arizona Governor Douglas A. Ducey issued Executive Order 2020-40, Containing the Spread of COVID-19 Continuing Arizona Mitigation Efforts, that allows a county, based on conditions in its jurisdiction, to adopt policies regarding the wearing of Face Coverings in public for the purpose of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and that any enforcement of such policy shall focus first on educating and working to promote best practices to accomplish the goal of mitigation and that individuals be given an opportunity to comply prior to any enforcement action being taken; and

WHEREAS, the CDC and the ADHS continue to update their guidance for prevention and mitigation of COVID-19 with additional information to help individuals make better decisions about going out while preventing and mitigating the spread of the virus; and

WHEREAS, published June 11, 2020, the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America concluded “wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with simultaneous social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing, represents the most likely fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic,”; and

WHEREAS, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors recognize that it is critical to also maintain six-feet physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, the use of Face Coverings, as recommended by the CDC and the ADHS, can further aid in slowing the spread of the virus permitting offices, businesses, venues and activities in Pinal County to remain open; and

WHEREAS, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors adopts the Requirements for Businesses issued in conjunction with Executive Order 2020-40, issued June 17, 2020 (attached hereto as Exhibit A).

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that a public health emergency continues to exist necessitating the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to adopt the following policy and order applicable in unincorporated Pinal County, encouraging Face Coverings to be worn if six-feet of physical distance can not be maintained in public effective June 25, 2020.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

  1. “Face Covering” means a covering made of cloth, fabric or other soft or permeable material, without holes, that covers the nose and mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face, or a full plastic face shield. A covering that hides or obscures the wearer’s eyes or forehead is not a Face Covering.

  2. All members of the public are highly encouraged to, wear a Face Covering in the following situations:
    a. When they are boarding or riding on public transportation or paratransit or are in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle. (This Resolution does not require any person to wear a Face Covering while driving alone, or exclusively with other members of the same family or household, in a motor vehicle).

  3. All Pinal County Departments and Elected Officials, contractors and volunteers are encouraged to:
    a.
    Require their employees, contractors, owners, and volunteers to wear a Face Covering at the workplace or when performing work off-site any time the employee, contractor, owner or volunteer is:
    i.
    interacting in person with any member of the public;
       ii. working in any space visited by members of the public,
    iii. working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others;
    b.
    Take reasonable measures, such as posting signs, to remind their customers and the public that they wear a Face Covering while inside of or waiting in line to enter the facility, or location.
    c.
    Public Safety Employees and Detention Officers are not required to wear a Face Covering while on duty, unless required by the Sheriff.

  4. It is recommended that children under two years or younger not wear a Face Covering.

  5. Persons who are engaged in outdoor work or recreation such as walking, hiking, bicycling, or running, are encouraged to wear a face covering when they are unable to maintain six-feet distance from others. (This Resolution does not recommend any person to wear a Face Covering while swimming).

  6. Persons working alone in separate office spaces or in non-public workplaces where there is not more than adequate physical distancing area, based on the size and number of people in the space (indoors and out of doors) are encouraged to wear a Face Covering.

  7. When wearing a Face Covering or mask poses a greater mental or physical health, safety, or security risk, such as anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance, the wearing of Face Covering will not be required. A person who declines to wear a Face Covering because of a medical condition or whose religious beliefs prevent the wearing of a Face Covering shall not be required to produce documentation verifying the condition, or belief. Persons who are hearing impaired or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, when the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication shall not be required to wear a Face Covering.

  8. When eating or drinking in public at a restaurant, bar, or other food or beverage establishment a Face Covering is encouraged where individuals are unable to maintain a distance of six-feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or residence. A mask or Face Covering is encouraged to be worn when entering or exiting any such establishment.
  9. Any enforcement of this Resolution shall focus first on educating and working to promote best practices to accomplish the goal of mitigation. Before any enforcement action is taken, a person shall be notified and given an opportunity to comply.

  10. This Resolution shall remain in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 Pinal County Local State of Emergency or until lawfully amended or terminated.