Governor Doug Ducey has signed several executive orders in recent weeks to address the spread of COVID-19, but enforcement of those orders is generally left to local governments. And that can result in myriad -and sometime conflicting- strategies.
“If you believe a business is not adhering to the Executive Order, you can report the violation below,” the webpage states.
The online form asks for the name and location of the business being reported, the general type of suspected violation, and how the business may have violated the executive order.
But Tucson’s approach has generated backlash far outside of the city limits, including Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre, who called the reporting program “unacceptable” and believes it will cause more problems than it purports to fix.
“I do not support the concept, in particular noting the ‘remain anonymous’ option and I would absolutely advise against any attempt to institute it here,” said McIntyre, who developed a reputation as a strong proponent of law-and-order as a criminal prosecutor. “This is, quite simply, not American.”
And in Phoenix, the office of longtime city councilman Sal DiCiccio issued a statement, calling it shocking that a “a snitch on your neighbor program” is being utilized in connection to COVID-19.
“To see that creeping into any government here in Arizona is appalling,” DiCiccio spokesman Sam Stone told Arizona Daily Independent. “There is no excuse for such a thing.”
Tucson’s request for citizens to become COVID-19 compliance spies comes a week after Police Chief Chris Magnus issued a news release about the consequences of taking part in large social gatherings in violation of Ducey’s stay-at-home order.
“Not surprisingly, house parties are not listed as an ‘essential activity’ in his order,” the March 30 release states. “Attendees at such a party could be charged with violating A.R.S. 26-217, a class 1 misdemeanor.”
The news release suggested that people who unknowingly violate emergency orders will be provided “with a warning and education on the importance of social distancing,” but it notes “scofflaws who clearly should know better will not receive the same consideration.”
Meanwhile, two mayors in Cochise County are pushing back on one of the governor’s orders in an effort to balance competing public health concerns.
In Tombstone, longtime Mayor Dusty Escapule directed his staff on April 4 to keep the city’s two public restrooms open, including one in City Park, despite Ducey’s order that park restrooms be closed to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
“I believe that we would be at a far greater health risk were the restrooms closed,” Escapule stated. “If we close our public restrooms, we can expect urine and feces on our streets, behind our buildings, most everywhere. Because when you have to go, you go.”
Then on Monday, Mayor David Smith of nearby Bisbee announced he had ordered the reopening of the Grassy Park restrooms in a historic area of the city near the Copper Queen Hotel and Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum.
While public restrooms are now open in Bisbee and Tombstone, the same will not be true in Phoenix’s various city parks during Easter Weekend.
The City of Phoenix is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic via the adoption of a local emergency order. Although guided by Ducey’s executive order, the local order allows city officials to craft a more thought-out, localized approach suited to the city’s needs, Stone said.
In recent weeks Phoenix council members have met several times to review the operation of each city department, including Parks and Recreation. The review has included consideration of every amenity at each park in order to better develop social distancing measures, according to Stone.
For instance, several park restrooms have remained open since the pandemic started. But with Easter weekend historically resulting in a large public turnout, the Phoenix council recognized it will be more difficult to address social distancing.
Therefore, the council voted to keep the walking paths and green spaces open this weekend but the restrooms, picnic and playground areas, and parking lots will be closed.
Back in Tucson, city officials are telling residents that going to the dump is not an essential activity, and that residents who are using their stay-at-home time to clean are putting staff safety at risk.
“Public health experts are recommending that people stay home and only leave if their work or personal needs absolutely require it,” according to the city’s website.
“If yard waste and other debris can be contained at home, visit the landfill when stay-at-home recommendations have eased.”
Those who do venture out to the Los Reales Landfill may be surprised to find that cash isn’t king.
“Customers are reminded to pay with credit and debit cards only,” the website states, noting that “due to safety concerns, the landfill will not accept cash payments.” It’s unclear whether landfill staff touch the bank cards as part of the payment process.