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Phoenix City Council declares masks in public now mandatory

(Visit Phoenix Photo)

PHOENIX – The Phoenix City Council issued a declaration Friday requiring most residents to wear a face covering when they are in public to curb further spreading of the coronavirus.

The council voted, 7-2, during an emergency session to make anyone in the city older than 6 carry a mask or covering and to wear it when they are within 6 feet of others, per social distancing guidelines.

Councilmen Jim Waring and Sal DiCiccio voted no.

The policy goes into effect 6 a.m. Saturday.

“It’s a tool you can take in your own hands and save lives,” Mayor Kate Gallego said during the mostly virtual session.

The council said enforcement would focus on education first, but eventually those who don’t comply could be fined up to $250. Police would start by issuing a warning; the next step would be issuing a citation.

Police Chief Jeri Williams, who attended the City Hall meeting in person, said her officers were not going to be looking for people not wearing masks.

But she added that depending how large a crowd got, “in the event [noncompliance] gets egregious, we will have a supervisor respond” to the site.

Councilman Carlos Garcia voted in favor of the mask requirement but expressed concern about how it would be enforced.

“We want to acknowledge that not everyone has access to face coverings and we believe in the civil liberties of our residents of Phoenix,” he said in a statement issued after the meeting.

“We are paying close attention to how this declaration will be enforced. As a city we should avoid criminalizing people who do not have access or are in situations that prevent them from wearing a face covering.”

Earlier Friday, state health officials reported a single-day record of 3,246 new COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Doug Ducey granted municipal governments the power to determine if public mask-wearing would be mandatory in their communities on Wednesday.

Several cities around the Valley – Scottsdale, Tempe and Tolleson, among them – issued proclamations Thursday stating mask-wearing in public settings was going to take effect immediately.

Gilbert planned to implement a mandatory policy starting Friday at 5 p.m.

Phoenix’s declaration stated exceptions for wearing a mask that included:

  • Restaurant patrons while they are dining.
  • For people whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face covering.
  • Individuals exercising outdoors or while walking and exercising with others in the household.
  • In settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear a face covering, including when obtaining or rendering goods or services, such as the receipt of dental services or medical treatments.

The number of coronavirus cases reported in Arizona has been rising at a faster rate than testing has increased since the state’s stay-at-home order expired last month.

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