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  • Supervisors enact Countywide face mask rule

    Jun 19, 2020 | Read More News
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    The Pima County Board of Supervisors June 19 voted 3-2 to enact a countywide public health protection resolution requiring the wearing of face coverings when in public if 6 feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained. The Board took the action on the advice of the Back to Business Road to Recovery subcommittee, which is comprised of public health experts and physicians who specifically noted their concern about the recent surge in positive COVID-19 cases in the county. 

    The rule is effective immediately and applies to everyone over the age of 5. It’s applicable in all public places, which are defined as: “[A]ny place, indoor or outdoor, that is open to the public and includes, but is not limited to, businesses or other establishments where people assemble or members of the general public may enter; offices; public buildings, highways and parks, and public transportation including taxis and ride sharing.”

    There are several commonsense exceptions for medical and other reasons. 

    Any establishment open to the public also must require its employees wear face coverings, and if the establishment is unable to maintain physical distancing, it may ask members of the public to leave if not wearing a face covering and not covered by an exception. The public will be able to report instances of noncompliance by establishments through this Business and Community Reporting Form. The county will not accept anonymous complaints. 

    The board discussed at length enforcement of the rule. Education will be the primary response for those not wearing a mask and not exempt. Any further enforcement actions that would involve legal sanctions will require approval of the Board of Supervisors. 

    “This is not just about personal responsibility. This is community responsibility – our responsibility to others, especially the vulnerable who need us to do what is right to keep them safe. Wearing a mask is not a burden, it is a badge of honor that shows you are doing your part to try to stop the spread of this horrible disease and help save lives,” said Board Chairman Ramón Valadez. 

    The rule applies to everyone in the county outside of the tribal nations unless excepted. Several state statutes give the Board and the Health Department broad authority to protect the public health, including implementing protective measures to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. 

    “I and our team of public health and infectious disease experts have reviewed all the available research and it overwhelmingly shows that widespread use of facial coverings will reduce the spread of this disease, reduce the number of deaths, and help us get this under control. The science is clear – masks work,” said Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen. 

    Among the research reviewed by Dr. Cullen’s team included a British study published in The Lancet that was a study of existing COVID-19 research and summarized their findings. Among the major findings was the efficacy of widespread face mask use in public in reducing infection spread. 

    Also considered was a similar study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that concluded: “…wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with simultaneous social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing, represents the most likely fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    Dr. Francisco Garcia, the county Chief Medical Officer and Deputy County Administrator, told the Board that of the more than 5,000 people who have contracted the disease in Pima County, nearly half have become ill within the past three weeks with the rate of infection outpacing the rate of testing.