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Maricopa County official says he’s rethinking face mask policy

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PHOENIX – A member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors said he’s ready to rethink the county’s face mask mandate now that COVID-19 numbers have fallen.

“I have told many of my constituents over the past month that I believe and support it is time for a re-evaluation of this policy, and to allow mask-wearing to be voluntary not mandatory,” District 2 Supervisor Steve Chucri said in a newsletter Tuesday.

Chucri, who is also president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, revealed in the newsletter that he is one of the more than 800,000 people in the state who contracted COVID-19.

“This virus is very serious. I know firsthand because I was one of many Arizonans that had it,” he said.

“Thankfully now, our families, friends and neighbors are receiving vaccine from the state, the county and our partners at a steady pace.”

One of four Republicans on the five-member board, Chucri said the county’s average daily coronavirus case count is down to about 400, near what it was in May 2020 and just a fraction of the January surge above 6,000.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to enact the mandate for metro Phoenix on June 19, 2020, two days after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey gave local jurisdictions the authority to regulate face coverings in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“If this policy is revisited in the future, many people can and will still choose to wear masks and businesses would continue to have the right to implement their own mask policies,” Chucri said. “Some did so even prior to this action last year.”

Maricopa County’s face mask regulations have been the minimum required in the Valley.

Under the county order, people older than 6 must wear masks that cover their mouth and nose in enclosed public spaces where 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained. Several exceptions exist, including for eating and drinking.

Some county cities, including Phoenix, have their own mask mandates that wouldn’t be impacted if Maricopa County lifts its requirement. Gilbert was among the suburbs that let its mask order expire, choosing to defer to county regulation of the matter.

A bill proposed in the Arizona Legislature would allow businesses to ignore mask mandates.

More than 130 physicians from across the state have signed a letter urging lawmakers to reject the GOP-backed bill, saying it would lead to another surge in COVID-19 cases and cause needless deaths.

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