While other cities around the Valley raced to make decisions, Peoria took its time, eventually coming to the same end point: Masks are required in public places.
On June 17, Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ sat down at a long table to begin a news conference.
Both were wearing masks.
It was a hint that things were going to change—quickly. The wheels started spinning on regulations requiring masks in cities like Glendale, where fines for not wearing a mask can be up to $250, Peoria and, ultimately, all of Maricopa County.
Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat signed a mask proclamation June 19, two days after Ducey said he was “empowering” local governments to decide on masks.
“COVID-19 is widespread in the state of Arizona, and Arizonans must act responsibly to protect one another,” Ducey said.
Indeed, in the week before Ducey’s news conference, COVID-19 cases in Maricopa County jumped from 15,000 to more than 22,000. The total positive cases in the county passed 33,000 this week. In the last week, 90 died of COVID-19 in the county, bringing the total of deaths caused by coronavirus in the county to 630. The number hospitalized by COVID-19 in Maricopa County rose from 1,953 to 2,272 in the last week.
Ducey said he strongly urges “all Arizonans wear face masks when you can’t social distance … to help protect vulnerable communities and reduce infection rates.”
Yet he did not make a statewide order, instead stressing mayors should set mask policies: “We’re going to empower local officials.”
Some cities rushed to take action; others, like Peoria, took more time.
On June 18, less than 24 hours after Ducey’s conference, Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar signed a proclamation requiring face coverings in public places the morning of June 20. Also June 18, Avondale Mayor Kenn Weise ordered patrons of Avondale businesses to wear masks starting June 21.
Peoria was slightly slower to act. Around 1 p.m. June 19, Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat said, “Peoria continues to adhere to the CDC guidelines that have already been put forth, and we have not created a separate policy yet.”
Eight hours later, after the county announced masks were required, Carlat said masks would be required of people in public places in Peoria. It went into effect June 22.
(Carlat explains her process on Page 12.)
Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers met with city council June 19, listening to their views as well as a wide variety of citizens.
But Weiers did not have council vote, instead coming to a decision himself late in the afternoon June 19.
“This proclamation will mandate the use of face coverings for those in Glendale ages 6 and older in all public situations where social distancing may not be followed,” Weiers said.
In Peoria, hours after Maricopa County issued a proclamation requiring masks in all cities and towns within the county, Carlat announced Peoria’s proclamation.
“All persons are required to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth while outside of the person’s residence or personal vehicle in public settings within the boundaries of the city of Peoria when other social distancing measures of 6 feet of physical separation are difficult to maintain from all other persons who are not members of the same household or residence,” the Peoria proclamation states.
“Businesses that interact with the public must require employees to wear face coverings.”
The proclamation allows for several exceptions, including those who cannot wear a facial covering due to medical or mental health conditions, developmental disabilities and those engaging in exercise and/or team sports.
And those eating or drinking in a restaurant don’t have to wear masks.
The Peoria and Glendale proclamations define a face covering as a covering made of cloth, fabric or other soft material.
“A face covering may be factory-made, or may be handmade and improvised from ordinary household materials. The face covering should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, allow for breathing without restriction and be disposable or able to be laundered. Face coverings need to cover the nose and mouth at all times and should remain in place until taken off safely,” said the Peoria proclamation.
The Glendale mayor noted he wrestled with he mask decision. “The COVID-19 virus has caused me to think about and consider policy issues that I could never have imagined a year ago,” Weiers said.
Glendale’s proclamation emphasizes education, as Ducey stressed.
“Private businesses and venues shall enforce this proclamation by asking any person failing to comply with the emergency proclamation to leave their premises. By allowing people/patrons to remain on the premises without a face covering as described above, is a violation of this emergency proclamation,” the proclamation states.
“As a last resort, continued failure to comply with an emergency proclamation by a business owner and/or responsible party will be handled as a civil penalty up to but not to exceed a $250 fine.”
Peoria’s proclamation also emphasized education, though potential fines for repeat offenders can be up to $100.
“A person who violates Section I, face covering order, shall first be notified of the provisions of the order … and given an opportunity to comply prior to any enforcement action being taken,” said Carlat’s Peoria order.
The Peoria proclamation also puts responsibility on bars and restaurants for enforcement, noting, “The city shall also have any recourse against businesses, restaurants and bars for failure to enforce” the proclamation and previous Ducey orders.
Peoria also is providing free masks for residents, while supplies last. For information, call 623-773-7770 or visit peoriaaz.gov/residents/covid-19-information.
By the time Carlat came out with Peoria’s mask requirements, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors was wrapping up a five-hour meeting and announced mask requirements for all cities in the county, beginning June 20.
According to the county proclamation, not wearing a mask in public comes with the risk of a warning for first-time offenders, followed by a $50 fine for those who refuse to comply.
Maricopa County’s proclamation noted, “These regulations set minimum standards for face coverings.
“Nothing in these regulations prohibits or impedes any city, town, other public entity or private entity from enacting and enforcing more restrictive regulations regarding the use of face coverings.”
Ducey had some stern words for businesses not following current guidelines.
“Today’s stepped-up actions will help further contain the spread of COVID-19,” Ducey said.
“We need to redouble our efforts, and we need everyone to do their part.”
With many West Valley high schools yet to celebrate graduations, Ducey issued a warning.
He said that, until recently, he could relate to those who say they “don’t know anyone with coronavirus.”
“Just recently I know a lot of people who have (tested positive),” Ducey said.
“They got it at graduation parties.”