Mask Requirements Cause Confusion As Some Orders Suspended or Rescinded

First it was Gilbert, then Sierra Vista. Now Scottsdale’s mayor has rescinded his emergency order which required the wearing of face-coverings within the town limits as a response to COVID-19.

Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane issued Scottsdale’s face-covering emergency order in mid-June for anyone who lived, worked, visited, or attended school in the town. He extended the order twice, but after a decline in hospitalization rates throughout the area he announced Monday that the edict was ending.

However, Lane’s announcement doesn’t mean more smiles will be visible in town anytime soon. That’s because Maricopa County officials continue to mandate the use of face-coverings throughout its 9,200 square miles. Which means most public outings by anyone age 2 or older anywhere in the county still requires the use of a face-covering.

In a prepared statement, Lane noted his “no cover” decision doesn’t mean the town is out of the woods yet.

“It remains the civic responsibility of each person to continue protecting others and themselves, by taking extra care if part of the vulnerable population, staying home when possible and certainly when sick, by practicing good hand hygiene, and by wearing masks around other people,” Lane said, adding that “no amount of government regulation is a substitute for individual behavior and decision making.”

Farther south, Cochise County voted back in July to forgo a face-covering mandate and leave those decisions to the mayors of the county’s seven incorporated cities and towns. So when Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller announced last Friday that he was suspending the face-covering order in place for anyone over the age of 10, it seemed like a big change. Or so it appeared.

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Local officials were quick to point out that numerous businesses and government agencies located in Sierra Vista, the most populous city in Cochise County, can still refuse to serve customers or citizens who won’t utilize the preventative measure. In addition, many gyms, bars, salons, and restaurants remain under Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive orders which mandate face-covering and social distancing efforts by the public.

Mueller noted that his suspension order was based on local COVID-19 statistics “which have declined consistently in recent weeks and months.” But he made it clear his June 22 mandate could be reactivated if necessary.

“I applaud Sierra Vista residents for everything they have done to help combat COVID-19 in our community” Mueller stated. “While we are in a good place right now, we know that can change quickly with this virus. I ask that residents remain vigilant and continue to be kind to one another as we head into the fall and winter months.”

There remains confusion in many parts of Arizona which still mandating face-coverings as to when someone needs to cover-up. The orders in some communities require face-coverings when other social-distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Other orders require the coverings anytime a person “is in public.”

Most of the orders issued in Arizona define a person as anyone age 2 and older.

In Nogales, the mayor issued a proclamation that requires face-coverings by anyone age two or older when in an indoor public space “if another person is present,” or when outdoors if another person is within six-feet.

Yet the face-covering order issued by the City of Phoenix this summer goes much further. It requires everyone age six and older “to cover their nose and mouth whenever they are away from their home or residence and within six feet of another person who is not a member of their family or household.”

City officials did not contradict news reports that interpreted the order as meaning failure to use face-coverings in one’s own car while there are unrelated passengers in the vehicle could result in a violation. The Phoenix order was later trumped by Maricopa County officials who lowered the minimum age to two years.

On Monday, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors was briefed by county health officials about the latest COVID-19 trends. Despite the Scottsdale move, no timeline has been announced for the county board to reconsider its standing face-covering order.