TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The battle over mask mandates between Arizona and Pima County spilled into the streets during a protest in Tucson Friday, April 2.
Several local groups came together for the event, which was held outside the Pima County Health Department office on South Country Club Road.
“We feel like, if people wanna wear masks for their health, that’s totally fine,” said protester Tim Short. “But it should be voluntary all the way across the board and we are here to stand for freedom.”
Last week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order to roll back occupancy limitations for bars and restaurants while also phasing out mask mandates across the state.
The state never issued a mandate during the pandemic, but several counties and cities did.
After Ducey’s announcement, both Pima County and Tucson said they would still enforce their mandates.
“We should have the choice whether or not you want to mask or not,” protester Stef Demple said. “We’re here just showing our support for local businesses that have been shut down and affected by COVID 19, the shutdowns and mask mandates.”
The county, which issued its resolution Dec. 4, said it has the legal authority despite Ducey’s order.
“It’s completely inconsequential,” Ducey said. “They’ve never enforced their mask mandate. It seems more like political grandstanding than anything else.”
Under the resolution, Pima County residents over 5 years old must wear a face mask unless they have a qualifying exemption or are able to maintain physical distance. People are not required to show proof of the medical exemption. Businesses that violate the mandate risk fines of $500 per infraction, and potential suspension or revocation of their operating permits.
“This pandemic is not over. There are still hundreds of thousands of people in Pima County who are not vaccinated and who remain at risk for serious illness or death if they contract COVID-19,” said Pima County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia. “The best protection they have until they get vaccinated is for everyone to continue to wear their masks.”
Another protest is scheduled for 9:30-11 a.m. Saturday, April 3, at the intersection of Oracle and Ina roads.