Pima County mask mandate extension vote set for Tuesday

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 6:54 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Pima County Board of Supervisors will vote whether to extend its mask mandate for another month, until the end of March.

The mandate, which was passed in early December as the omicron variant was ramping up, was always meant to be temporary until the number of cases dropped.

Still, cases remain at about 400/100K. The county health department would like to see that number around 100/100K.

That’s why the county board will probably pass a one month extension for the mandate.

“If we’re going to go by the numbers, which we really should be to be consistent, we really should have to extend this,” said District 2 Supervisor Matt Heinz, who brought the mandate forward in December. “It makes no sense based on the data we have just been talking about to drop the mask requirement right now.”

The UArizona Public Health Director, Dr. Joe Gerald, agrees.

“It’s a no brainer,” he said. “They should extend it for a month.”

Since it’s an unenforceable mandate, the county faces no consequences for extending it.

“It sends the right message,” Dr. Gerald said. “The right message is we’re four times higher than what the threshold for high transmission is.”

States and cities across the country are relaxing standards and dropping mask mandates.

Dr. Gerald says, and Dr. Heinz agrees, that the East Coast is about three weeks ahead of Arizona.

They went into omicron sooner and are coming out sooner he said.

If residents in Pima County can hold on for another four to six weeks “then we can begin ripping off those masks,” said Dr. Gerald.

Dr. Heinz is hoping for a four to one vote in favor of extending it. If history is any indication, District 4 Supervisor Steve Christy is likely to vote no to the extension.

“It wasn’t a magic bullet or silver bullet but I think it did help,” Heinz said. “I would like for the county to put forward the message of responsible mitigation and one of those things being a requirement for masks especially if they’re in public places indoors.”

The county board will vote on whether to extend the mandate on Tuesday, Feb. 15.

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