Pima County Board of Supervisors Approves Stricter Mask Mandate, New Biz Regulations To Combat Spread of COVID

click to enlarge COURTESY PIMA COUNTY
Courtesy Pima County

The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved six measures to combat the spread of coronavirus at an emergency special meeting today.

The board approved the following motions:

  • A revised mask mandate with a civil penalty for noncompliance; businesses now required to mandate masks for all customers.

  • Upon their second violation of noncompliance to safety protocols, businesses will be reprimanded by means of having their license revoked or operations suspended.

  • Event organizers planning gatherings of more than 50 persons are required to give the county a minimum $1,000 deposit per each event (with the deposit rising depending on the number of people expected in attendance). The money will be returned if there is sufficient compliance to safety protocol.

  • The county’s voluntary curfew will remain in place as it examines Tucson’s curfew enforcement.

  • A revised public health advisory with recommendations for the public to avoid contracting COVID-19.

  • A motion to review Pima County’s vaccination strategy draft

The decisions come as within the first three days of December, Pima County saw 2,023 COVID-19 infections, surpassing the county’s total infection count for March, April and May combined, according to a memorandum from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. Today, the county reported 816 cases.

Hospitals are facing record numbers of COVID-19 patients and on Dec. 3, only one ICU bed was available to the public, the memo says.

On all the motions except approving a vaccination strategy, the board voted 3-2 with GOP Supervisors Ally Miller and Steve Christy opposing. Only Miller opposed the vote to review the vaccination strategy.

Mask wearing to be enforced

The board previously adopted a mask mandate in June with no penalties for noncompliance. Now, those who refuse to wear masks in public areas will be subject to a civil penalty of $50 per infraction. These penalties will be enforced by law enforcement agencies, but it has yet to be determined the manner in which they will do so.

Businesses are also now required to mandate masks for all those who enter their premises. Before, the county’s resolution said businesses “may refuse” those not wearing masks, but now, they must.

Stricter enforcement for businesses who defy guidelines

Businesses that are reported as not following the imposed safety guidelines will face a civil infraction that carries a penalty of $500 and may lose their license or operating permits upon their second reported offense.

Before, businesses reported disobeying protocol were publicly posted on the county’s website, which became known as “the wall of shame,” according to Huckelberry. This wall of shame will no longer exist, but rather businesses will be subject to enforceable penalties for noncompliance.

Events with more than 50 attendees will have to pay deposit

Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Dec. 2 for local jurisdictions to announce public gatherings of more than 50 people and to post details of the event’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies on the jurisdiction’s website.

In addition to following these guidelines, the county supervisors approved a motion to require a $1,000 deposit for event coordinators. If the event organizers sufficiently meet coronavirus mitigation requirements, the funds will be refunded to them. If not, the funds are forfeited to the county.

Events of more than 50 attendees will also be subject to onsite investigations to determine their compliance.

The voluntary curfew ensues..for now

The board approved a measure to continue Pima County’s voluntary curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. However, they will look closely at the enforcement techniques Tucson uses in its mandatory curfew that goes into effect tonight to determine if the county’s curfew should be mandated.

A revised public health advisory

The board members also approved a new public health advisory drafted by public health officials. The guidelines in the advisory are not mandatory but strongly suggested.

Vaccination strategy

With Pima County expected to receive vaccines by the end of December, according to Public Health Director Thersa Cullen, the board approved a motion to review a strategy to distribute vaccines.

According to Huckelberry, the first population eligible for the vaccine includes a group of more than 67,000 healthcare workers. Residents of long-term care facilities and school personnel will also be prioritized.