Pima County leaders pass mandatory face-covering ordinance

Rule is effective immediately and applies to everyone over the age of 5 years old

Pima County leaders pass mandatory face-covering ordinance
This file photo shows a person holding their mask. The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to pass a mandatory face-covering ordinance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Source: KOLD News 13)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted Friday, June 19, to pass an ordinance that requires residents to wear face coverings in public spaces when social distancing is not possible.

The vote passed 3-2, with supervisors Ally Miller and Steve Christy as the two dissenters. Supervisors Ramon Valadez, Betty Villegas and Sharon Bronson supported the measure.

The ordinance, which you can read HERE, is effective immediately and applies to residents 5 years old and up, except those who meet certain exemption requirements. It covers all unincorporated parts of the county, as well as towns like Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita.

Some of those exemptions include people with medical or mental conditions, those eating at a restaurant and people exercising outside.

Also, any establishment open to the public must require employees wear face coverings.

You can report people and business not wearing coverings at pima.gov, but the county will not accept anonymous complaints.

The board said enforcement will first focus on education, similar to the wording in the ordinance Tucson Mayor Regina Romero signed Thursday.

Any other punishment would first have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors. The

During the board’s call to the audience, multiple people, some of them local business owners, asked supervisors to not mandate masks. Many of the people who addressed the board said requiring masks would either hinder their businesses or their way of life.

“My concern is when we start taking personal liberty away from people, where does it stop?” Tucson resident Lisa Keller said.

However, others stressed a mandatory mask policy would better protect the community.

Julia Strange, who identified herself as the vice president of community benefit at TMC Healthcare, said, as COVID-19 cases continue to climb statewide, wearing masks could help slow the spread.

“Masking policy is pro-health and pro-business as it allows many businesses to operate and continue to maintain their livelihood while implementing an evidence-based intervention that can save lives,” she said. “At TMC, one of the largest hospitals in the region, our COVID dedicated ICUs have been at capacity all week.”

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry addressed some of the audience members’ concerns about the efficacy of masks in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“...The use of cloth masks can significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Huckelberry said.

Supervisor Ally Miller brought up the list of exemptions written into the new ordinance, that excludes certain people from the mandated face-covering policy.

However, she also challenged the science behind wearing masks to the other board members, citing an article published by Global Research, a Canadian-based website that publishes unvetted information from the public.

“I know when I try to wear a mask this happens to me: I get a headache, I get very nauseous, I get a lot of allergy symptoms just from wearing a mask,” Miller said.

Miller also questioned how the county plans to enforce the ordinance.

“We want to be extraordinarily clear that this is a public health resolution and the primary enforcement agency is a public health agency,” Huckelberry said about enforcement.

“This is not a Republican issue, this is not a Democratic issue, this is about saving lives,” Supervisor Sharon Bronson said.

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