Phoenix Mayor Gallego expects masks to be part of daily lives for long haul

Jun 12, 2020, 2:07 PM | Updated: 2:19 pm
(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)...
(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

PHOENIX — Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego told CNN Thursday she expects masks to be a vital accessory for the long haul as Arizona grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

State and local leaders this week have pushed the recommendation that residents wear cloth face masks when they can’t socially distance in public areas in order to slow the spread of the virus.

City of Phoenix and Maricopa County employees are now required to wear face masks while at work. ASU on Friday made face coverings mandatory effective immediately.

“I understand that people are eager to go back to normal, but my message is we still have to fight this virus,” Gallego said in an interview. “Masks are going to be a part of our lives for a long time.”

Calls to wear masks in public settings came during a week of increased national attention about how Arizona is handling the pandemic.

Case totals in Maricopa County have risen by more than 25% in the past week.

The state’s health department on Saturday sent a letter to hospitals that recommended they “fully activate” their emergency plans — roughly three weeks after the statewide stay-at-home order expired.

Gov. Doug Ducey and Dr. Cara Christ, the state’s public health director, on Thursday for the first time pushed Arizona residents to wear masks in public.

The duo did so while not wearing masks themselves, although Ducey flashed a mask of his own and said he wears it when he can’t socially distance in public.

Multiple instances from Ducey’s own Twitter account from the past week appear to show him not abiding by his own words.

Maricopa County health officials, who were masked, on Wednesday called on metro Phoenix residents to wear face coverings.

“We were one of the last states to go to a stay-at-home order and one of the first to come out,” Gallego said. “I’m concerned people are getting mixed messages about how serious this is.”

Gallego added that she has witnessed a good number of people not wearing masks in public settings, including at grocery stores.

Christ has said previously she was impressed by how many people were wearing masks during her experiences in public.

The Arizona health department reported a record high of 1,654 new coronavirus cases plus 17 additional deaths Friday morning.

That increased the state’s documented totals to 32,918 cases and 1,144 deaths.

“When I talk to public health professionals and our doctors and nurses, they tell me they are deeply concerned,” Gallego said. “They are worried that the public thinks COVID-19 is something we have defeated.”

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Phoenix Mayor Gallego expects masks to be part of daily lives for long haul