On June 17, Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ sat down at a long table to begin a news conference.
Both were wearing masks.
It was a hint that things were going to change—quickly. The wheels of local government started spinning and, in days, county and city proclamations were issued requiring masks, with an emphasis on education rather than fines for noncompliance.
“COVID-19 is widespread in the state of Arizona, and Arizonans must act responsibly to protect one another,” Ducey said.
Indeed, in the week before Ducey’s news conference, COVID-19 cases in Maricopa County jumped from 15,000 to more than 22,000. Since June 17, the total positive cases in the county topped 31,000—double the number of less than two weeks ago. And the number hospitalized in Maricopa County rose from 1,809 June 10 to 2,202 June 22, a 20% increase.
Ducey said he strongly urges “all Arizonans wear face masks when you can’t social distance ... to help protect vulnerable communities and reduce infection rates.”
Yet he did not make a statewide order, instead stressing mayors should set mask policies: “We’re going to empower local officials.”
Some cities rushed to take action; others, like Goodyear, took their time.
On June 18, less than 24 hours after Ducey’s conference, Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar signed a proclamation requiring face coverings in public places the morning of June 20.
Also June 18, Avondale Mayor Kenn Weise ordered patrons of Avondale businesses to wear masks starting June 21.
Phoenix put a mask requirement in place just after noon June 19, around the time the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors went into a private, executive-session meeting.
Buckeye scheduled a meeting on masks for June 23, then canceled it.
Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord held an executive-session meeting—also closed to the public—at 6 p.m. June 19. By the time Lord passed a mask proclamation, Goodyear’s decision was moot: The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors announced mask requirements for all cities in the county, beginning June 20. According to the county order, people older than 6 must wear masks in “places of public accommodation,” including businesses, sidewalks and parks.
Exemptions include “restaurant patrons while eating or drinking.”
Not wearing a mask in public comes with the risk of a warning for first-time offenders, followed by a $50 fine for those who refuse to comply.
Ducey said he is emphasizing education about the benefits of masks and social distancing, while providing funding for “contact tracing” of those who test positive to determine who they potentially exposed.
He also had some stern words for businesses that are not following current guidelines (see Page 18).
“As we continue to expand testing and prioritize our most vulnerable populations, today’s stepped-up actions will help further contain the spread of COVID-19,” Ducey said.
“We need to redouble our efforts, and we need everyone to do their part.”
With many West Valley high schools yet to celebrate graduations, Ducey issued a warning.
He said that, until recently, he could relate to those who say they “don’t know anyone with coronavirus.”
“Just recently I know a lot of people who have (tested positive),” Ducey said.
“They got it at graduation parties.”