GLENDALE, Ariz. – Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey lifted most COVID-19 restrictions, including the mask mandate in the state, March 25.
With Executive Order: 2021-06, businesses can operate at full capacity and public events hosting 50 or more people no longer need government approval. The order states that CDC guidelines are now just recommendations, and each individual business can decide whether to enforce them. The order prohibits any county, city, or town from enforcing masks except for in government buildings and on public transport.
Despite this, Pima County, along with Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, have all issued statements saying they have no plans to rescind any mask-wearing requirements.
“I have no intention of removing our local mask-wearing requirement,” Romero said in a statement. “Our city attorney has advised me that we have clear local authority to continue implementing our city mask mandate,”.
Representatives from larger chains such as Bashas, Safeway, Fry’s and Albertson’s have also declared that they will continue to enforce masks, follow all safety precautions, and encourage employees to get vaccinated; many of these chain’s pharmacies already available for appointments. They have also expressed their concern, however, on having to enforce masks without any legal support.
Ducey’s order came only a day after Arizona made the vaccine available to anyone 16 and older, citing the millions of doses distributed and the drop in COVID-19 cases being reported. As of April 16, 23 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated. However, epidemiologists have said at least 70 percent of residents would need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.
“The numbers are encouraging, because we’re doing mitigation strategies and vaccinations right now, but we don’t want to let up,” said Dr. Ross Goldberg, a Phoenix general surgeon and the president of the Arizona Medical Association.
It seems that most cities, along with health officials, were not made aware of the coming change until after it was made. Mayor Kate Gallego spoke out on Twitter about her concerns on Ducey’s decision.
“I’m concerned that politics played a role in this process,” Gallego said. “I’ve spoken to the health care leaders who have been great partners of the governor during COVID-19, they also did not know this was coming.”
Along with government officials, most local businesses and school districts will also be continuing to require masks. Daily reported cases have been steadily dropping over the last few weeks, but the sudden rise of about 200 cases in the first 24 hours of the executive order should not be overlooked. Public health experts have continuously warned against reversing prevention measures too quickly, especially with new strains of the virus continuing to emerge.
Though Ducey has yet to comment on the warnings of these experts, he did make a Twitter thread saying, “Practice the fundamentals. Wear a mask, practice physical distancing, stay home when sick, wash your hands frequently and roll up you’re sleeve and get the vaccine- it’s safe, effective, and free,”.