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Pima County to end mask mandates, return to in person meetings

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 7:07 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted three to two to return to in person board meetings beginning on March 15 after two years of remote meetings.

The two who voted no were District 2 Supervisor Dr. Matt Heinz and District 5 Supervisor Adelita Grijalva.

Both said as long as the county remains in “high transmission,” as it does now, returning to face to face is unwise.

However, if the county numbers drop enough to put it into “moderate or medium” transmission, then things can change.

That could come soon.

“We anticipate that by this Friday we will drop into the medium level of transmission,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, the Chief Medical Officer for Pima County, who echoes several others in making that prediction.

However, he qualifies it.

“I can’t tell you for certain that by Friday we will be in yellow but I believe that there is a high likelihood that before our next meeting we may be there,” he said.

If that happens, it would ease the minds of some supervisors who are still concerned about high transmission.

The county also voted to end the mask mandate for all county buildings, facilities and events on March 11.

That gives the county time to change signage in the buildings and to prepare for those who are over 65, who are immunocompromised or concerned about catching the virus.

“We have pretty much called the pandemic over on more than one occasion in the last two years,” said Acting County Administrator Jan Lesher. “We want to make sure we have safety valve language in place when we come back to the board should we for any reason see another variant or another spike.”

Mask mandates and masking in Pima County has been contentious since their inception nearly two years ago and lifting was no less contentious.

“We need to stop this mask nonsense once and for all,” said District 4 Supervisor Steve Christy, who has argued against mask mandates. ”It’s time for all mask requirements be removed so we can have clarity and uniformity in our community and we can move on with our lives.”

Still left to be decided is whether members of the public who want to attend the board meetings will need to mask up or maintain distance. That was left undecided for the time being.

“Let’s see what is shared with us on March 11,” Rex Scott, District 1 Supervisor said.

“I have no problem voting to go in person but if we’re going to have caveats, where a person lives or if you come from out of town, I mean that’s confusing,” said Grijalva.

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