If Maricopa County lifts mask order, state and local rules would still reign

Mar 24, 2021, 11:46 AM | Updated: Mar 25, 2021, 10:46 am
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(UPDATE: All mask mandates issued by local jurisdictions in Arizona were canceled under an executive order issued by Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday, a day after this story was published.)

PHOENIX – If metro Phoenix officials decide to lift the countywide face mask mandate, that wouldn’t mean it’s time to throw away those face coverings.

Patrons and employees at certain Maricopa County businesses, including restaurants and gyms, would still have to wear masks in accordance with the state of Arizona’s COVID-19 regulations.

“The governor’s executive order still requiring masks and restaurants would apply, so it [lifting the county mandate] would have no rendering or no change on that aspect,” Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri, who is also president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Chucri said in a newsletter he thought it was “time for a re-evaluation of this policy, and to allow mask-wearing to be voluntary not mandatory.”

Under a county order implemented nine months ago, 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 while eating and drinking.

“Clearly, when we did this last June we had higher rate counts, we had compression on our hospitals, we had a lot of concerns,” Chucri, one of four Republicans on the five-member Board of Supervisors, explained Wednesday.

“Now we’re in a far better place, and there’s a lot of people that are just tired of the mask policy. So I think it’s worth considering to take a look at this.”

Earlier this month, Gov. Doug Ducey lifted capacity restrictions on businesses covered under his June 2020 executive order. However, the requirements for physical distancing and mask use remained in effect for restaurants, bars, nightclubs, indoor fitness centers, indoor theaters and water parks.

Those rules would still stand if Maricopa County ends its mask requirement, as would any city mandates in the Phoenix area.

“I’m not saying we throw caution aside and we just start to get reckless with our behavior. We still have to realize we’re finding a pandemic and be responsible about that,” Chucri said.

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

Some cities in the region, including Phoenix, have their own mask mandates. 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.

“I think we have to give the proper diligence and respect to our health care professionals. They know better than most, if not all, exactly what fighting this pandemic is on the front lines, and I’m not suggesting we disregard what they’re saying,” Chucri said.

“However, we need to look to other states where they have relaxed the policy and what has happened there, and also factor that into our daily schedules and lives here in Arizona.”

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If Maricopa County lifts mask order, state and local rules would still reign