In a reversal of his previous policy, Gov. Doug Ducey announced today that he will allow local jurisdictions to mandate the wearing of face masks in an effort to slow Arizona’s skyrocketing spread of COVID-19.
Ducey, who wore a mask before beginning the press conference for the first time, said different areas of the state were facing different circumstances, so he was relaxing his emergency regulations that limited the actions of local communities. He said it would be up to local communities to set up rules and penalties.
Tucson officials, including Mayor Regina Romero and Councilmember Steve Kozachik, had been asking Ducey to allow them to set local standards in accordance with CDC guidelines. Earlier today, Romero said she had asked City Attorney Michael Rankin to develop a legal strategy to require masks.
Ducey, who had not emphasized the wearing of face masks before last week, recommended that people should “act responsibly” and wear the masks when out in public.
“Every Arizonan should wear a face mask,” Ducey said. “It’s the smart thing to do.”
Following Ducey's announcement, Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson said she believed the county should mandate the wearing of face masks.
Ducey also said his administration would be providing more guidance to businesses to prevent large gatherings.
Ducey's action comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona soared to nearly 41,000 as of today after the state reported 1,827 new cases reported this morning.
Pima County had 4,385 of the state's 40,924 confirmed cases, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. That's more than double the 20,123 confirmed cases the state had on June 1.
A total of 1,239 people have died after contracting the virus, including 229 in Pima County.
Maricopa County has more than half the state's cases, with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases hitting 22,272.
Because symptoms can take as long as two weeks to appear after exposure to the virus (while some people can remain entirely asymptomatic), health officials continue to urge the public to avoid unnecessary trips and gatherings of more than 10 people, especially if you have underlying health conditions, and have advised people to cover their faces with masks in public.
This is a developing story with newly added reaction from local officials.