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Mayor Gallego defies Gov. Ducey, says Phoenix will keep mask mandate

(Facebook Photo/Mayor Kate Gallego)

PHOENIX — Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego in a statement on Tuesday said the city’s mask mandate is still in effect despite Gov. Doug Ducey ordering local governments to abandon the requirement.

“I stand with the majority of the Phoenix City Council who agree that the governor’s unilateral decision to order cities to abandon mask requirements is a case of significant government overreach,” Gallego said in a statement. “The governor’s authority is not without limits.”

Ducey last week in an executive order declared local governments can’t make any regulations pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically mentioning face masks, citing favorable viral spread and vaccine distribution metrics as the reason for the order.

“The governor’s order has caused tremendous confusion, particularly for local businesses,” Gallego said. “I’ve spoken to many business owners who want to do the right thing but don’t know why they have to do it alone. They’ve been pushed into the position of having to defend their masking policies with no help or backup from local government. That is wrong.”

Arizona never had a statewide mask mandate, but many cities enacted their own mask requirements.

While many cities followed Ducey’s executive order and lifted the requirement  – including Mesa and Chandler – others have stood defiant.

Officials from Tucson and Flagstaff as well as Pima County said last week the mask mandates would continue, with Phoenix being the latest to not follow the order.

Jean-Jacques Cabou, outside counsel for the city of Phoenix, told KTAR News 92.3 FM the council held a meeting on Tuesday but no formal vote was held on the issue because a vote wasn’t required.

Cabou said Ducey’s unilateral decision to try to countermand the mask mandate enacted in Phoenix is “simply not legally valid.”

“Even the language of his order suggests that he might know he doesn’t have that power,” Cabou said. “His order relies on a section of Arizona law … that prohibits cities from making emergency orders that are inconsistent with orders of the governor.

“That’s not what the governor’s order says though, his order says cities can’t make things that are inconsistent or in addition to his order.”

Cabou argued the mask mandate is not inconsistent with anything, adding both the governor’s state of emergency and the city’s emergency declaration remains in effect.

“We’re very confident that the city’s mask mandate is lawful and remains lawful,” Cabou said.

Gallego said the reasoning for the continuation of the mask mandate in Phoenix is health expert recommendations that masks are the best technique for staying ahead of COVID-19 and the best and fastest way to fully reopen and recover.

“My job, and that of the duly elected members of the Phoenix City Council, is to do what they believe is right for the people of Phoenix,” Gallego said. “A majority of the council believes, as I do, that protecting public health must come first. Every aspect of our economic recovery depends on defeating this virus.

“The decisions we’ve made in Phoenix to protect public health have worked.”

Arizona reported 570 new COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths on Tuesday, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services’ dashboard, with the last day with more than 1,000 new cases coming on March 1.

Meanwhile, more than 2.3 million people have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose in Arizona, representing 33% of the state’s population.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Debra Dale contributed to this report.

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