COVID-19 in Arizona: Phoenix City Council votes to mandate masks

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PHOENIX – Face masks will be required in Phoenix for people who are outside the home or in restaurants and businesses starting Saturday, June 20, after a 7-2 City Council vote in favor of the policy.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic,” Mayor Kate Gallego said Friday, the same day health officials reported a record high of 3,246 cases.

“Phoenix and Arizona are seeing a rapid increase in cases of COVID-19,” Gallego said. “Public health professionals tell us there are steps we can take to slow the spread and that facial coverings are an incredibly important tool.”

The Phoenix mayor was among the first to require face masks in public. On Wednesday, moments after Gov. Doug Ducey said he would allow city and county governments to implement and enforce their own mandates, Gallego tweeted her intention to bring it up for a vote, Cronkite News reported.

Under the policy, businesses and restaurants are allowed to refuse service and remove customers who violate the policy, which has a list of those exempted from the mandate, including children younger than 6 and those who can’t wear a mask for health reasons.

Enforcement would come down to police discretion, and violating the order would be considered a civil violation, similar to a parking ticket. Citations may cost up to $250 and are up to the court’s discretion.

“It does not create a criminal record to violate mask rules,” Police Chief Jeri Williams said during the meeting.

One of the two council members opposed to the policy, Sal DiCiccio, raised concerns with the effectiveness of enforcement, asking whether the police were prepared to enforce this policy, especially in the current political environment around police behavior.

“It’s a really bad time to be using the police for something like this,” DiCiccio said. Council member Jim Waring also cast a dissenting vote.

As of Sunday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 52,390 cases of COVID-19 and 1,339 deaths in the state. It said 566,937 tests for COVID-19 have been completed in public and private labs, and that 8.2% of tests have come back positive for the virus.

Law enforcement facing COVID-19

Arizona law enforcement has been hit hard by COVID-19. Officials say Officer Michael Lee, who served the Chinle Police District for 29 years, has died from COVID-19, ABC15 reports. Lee marks the first officer to die of COVID-19 in the line of duty for Navajo Police Department, officials said.

On Wednesday, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb said he tested positive for COVID-19 as protocol for a planned meeting next week with President Donald Trump, The Arizona Republic reports.

Summer vacation planning for Arizonans

Arizonans looking to travel out of state may want to check a list of travel restrictions before they pack any bags, The Arizona Republic reports. Hawaii, Maine and Vermont are among states that require anyone arriving from Arizona to enter some form of quarantine.

Nursing home hot spots disclosed

Federal data has identified Arizona nursing homes where the most COVID-19 related deaths have been reported, ABC15 reports. The top three are Sapphire of Tucson Nursing and Rehab, with 30 deaths; Providence Place at Glencroft, with 20 deaths; and Sapphire Estates Rehab Centre, with 17 deaths.

News Reporter, Phoenix

Connor Van Ligten is a California native who expects to graduate in spring 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Van Ligten was a sports writer for The State Press and interned with The Arizona Republic covering breaking news.