Woods, other mayors address Ducey’s mask rollback order

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods and other Arizona Democrat mayors expressed views about Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order Thursday that loosened or ended COVID-19 public-safety measures. –Wrangler News photo by Billy Hardiman

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods, alongside other mayors across Arizona, has spoken out on Gov. Doug Ducey’s March 25 executive order that relaxed or extinguished COVID-19 public-safety measures after the state hit key public-health benchmarks.

Among provisions of Ducey’s order is prohibiting mask mandates by local governments.

“While I am encouraged by the recent uptick in vaccination rates, I strongly believe the use of masks, social distancing and other (Centers for Disease Control) protocols are key contributors to the lower rates of COVID cases we have recently been experiencing,” Woods said in a statement. “Tempe City Council’s number one concern is the health and safety of our community. My Council colleagues and I will work together, along with our City Attorney’s Office and Tempe stakeholders, to explore safety measures that will continue to protect the well-being of our community.

“I’ve confirmed with City Manager Andrew Ching that COVID-19 protocols will remain in place for all City of Tempe facilities and programs. My Council colleagues and I will work together, along with our City Attorney’s Office and Tempe stakeholders, to explore safety measures that will continue to protect the well-being of our community.”

Nikki Ripley, Tempe communications and media relations manager, also addressed the city’s response to Ducey’s order.

“The Executive Order allows cities the ability to require masks in city facilities and that is what Tempe is doing,” Ripley said in a statement to Wrangler News.

Woods, she emphasized, is not challenging Ducey’s latest order.

“The mayor’s statement addresses that not having advance notice causes confusion community-wide among businesses, and that his statement was an effort to provide clarity about what it meant for Tempe. In addition, he conveyed that he values mask-wearing and will still choose to wear masks and follow CDC guidelines,” Ripley’s statement reads in part.

Other mayors around the state, all of them Democrats, took a dim view of the order by Ducey, a Republican.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego lamented that she had not received a heads-up that the executive order was coming, saying, “The risk of another surge is real. The governor clearly cares a lot less about the people of Arizona than his political future.”

And the Democrat mayors of two other Arizona cities, Regina Romero of Tucson and Paul Deasy of Flagstaff, essentially thumbed their noses at the governor’s order, saying that their cities’ mask mandates will remain in place.

Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke

But Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke, a Republican, supported the governor’s order.

“The vaccine is out far and wide, many Arizonans are vaccinated, and COVID numbers are down,” Hartke said. “We’re ready to carefully lift restrictions and trust Arizonans to make responsible decisions. I’m grateful to the Governor for responding to local needs as we move forward and fight the pandemic.”

Under the changes announced by Ducey:

  • Events of more than 50 people no longer require approval of local governments. These events should continue to follow safe practices and Centers for Disease Control recommendations, including physical distancing. This includes youth sports.
  • Business guidance will transition from requirements to recommendations. Ducey is providing businesses with the ability to continue requiring masks and social distancing.
  • Bars have already been allowed to operate as dine-in at full capacity. They now may resume regular operations, but still with the ability to require social distancing and masks.

Woods and Tempe City Council will discuss further how the city will move forward in the wake of Ducey’s order. That could occur at the Council’s April 8 Work Study Session. Until then, all city facilities and programs will continue to operate under restrictions, including requiring masks, according to Woods.

Arizona never issued a statewide mask mandate, instead encouraging personal responsibility with an aggressive educational campaign, which the governor said resulted in more widespread mask usage than states with mandates.

However, some local governments, including Tempe, implemented their own mandates, which, the governor said, rarely, if ever, were enforced. Under Ducey’s latest order, those local mandates are to be phased out, however mask usage still is encouraged, especially in groups that are not vaccinated.

Woods said that Tempe had followed an education-before-citation approach to non-compliance with its proclamation. Hundreds of educational phone calls and contacts were made by the city to businesses that were reported to have difficulties with enforcement of the mask ordinance. Some citations were issued to businesses that were not complying with the governor’s measures to combat COVID-19 in previous orders, he said.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

Ducey said that several key data points contributed to his order:

  • Mass distribution of the vaccine. More than 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to nearly 2 million people in Arizona, including 1,185,986 who have been fully vaccinated.
  • Ten weeks of declining COVID-19 cases.
  • Hospitalizations at the lowest level since late September/early October.
  • Opening of vaccine appointments to all Arizonans 16 years and older.
  • A recent evaluation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that ranks Arizona among the best states in the nation for getting the COVID-19 vaccine to vulnerable communities.
  • President Joe Biden’s recent promise that every American will be able to be vaccinated by May 1.

“As we’ve said all along, distribution of the vaccine is our best path to getting back to normal, and I want to thank the millions of Arizonans who have rolled up their sleeves to make the distribution and uptake so successful,” Ducey said. “In Arizona, we never did a shutdown, so it’s impossible to have a grand reopening.

“Instead, we are continuing to take reasonable, safe and sensible steps. The measures put in place last summer allowed Arizona to fight back COVID-19. I want to thank the local leaders who supported these efforts with their own measures, and the businesses who implemented them. Today, we are in a different spot, and we are also a lot smarter. I’m confident Arizona’s businesses and citizens will continue to practice the fundamentals and act responsibly as we gradually get back to normal.”

Tempe City Hall has yet to reopen to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. –Tempe photo

While Tempe’s facemask mandate no longer is enforceable, Tempe businesses still may choose to require patrons to wear face coverings. Tempe Police could still be called to respond to businesses with patrons who refuse to comply.

Tempe public-transit riders and operators must continue to wear face coverings, in accordance with a January order by President Biden. In Tempe, this applies to light rail, city buses and Orbit neighborhood circulators.

Tempe bars may fully reopen and they can choose to require masks and physical distancing.

Ducey’s executive order eliminates the state’s previous requirement that city governments must approve all events with 50 or more people, Tempe’s normal, pre-COVID special-events permitting process still applies for organizations wanting to stage events in the city.

Local governments may require masks in their facilities. Face coverings have been required at Tempe city facilities since mid 2020.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend physical distancing and wearing face coverings as significant ways to reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero

Tucson’s Romero said in her statement that she has “no intention of removing our local mask-wearing requirement. We will continue to follow the science and advice of our public health experts.”

Flagstaff City Council met in an emergency executive session March 26 to discuss how it would proceed and afterward Deasy released a statement in opposition of Ducey’s executive order.

“Executive Order 2021-06 is not in the best interest of public health and further erodes home rule,” Deasy said.

Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy

“COVID-19 continues to spread with many variants and the City Council remains committed to seeing our community reach collective immunity through vaccination. Ensuring public health and keeping our community safe is our fundamental responsibility and priority.”

More information or questions regarding Tempe: 480-350-4311, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

 

 

 

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 TEMPE MAYOR COREY WOODS’ FULL STATEMENT

REGARDING GOV. DOUG DUCEY’S EXECUTIVE ORDER 2021-06

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods

As many of you are aware, Governor Ducey announced an Executive Order (March 25) that lifted COVID restrictions and will bar cities and towns from upholding their mask mandates. The lack of any advanced notice of this Executive Order has created confusion and frustration for me. Tempe residents and business owners are looking for clarity on what this means.

I’ve confirmed with City Manager Andrew Ching that COVID-19 protocols will remain in place for all City of Tempe facilities and programs. My Council colleagues and I will work together, along with our City Attorney’s Office and Tempe stakeholders, to explore safety measures that will continue to protect the well-being of our community.

While I am encouraged by the recent uptick in vaccination rates, I absolutely believe the use of masks, social distancing and other CDC protocols are key contributors to the lower rates of COVID cases we have recently been experiencing. Tempe City Council’s number one concern is the health and safety of our community. I strongly encourage our residents and businesses to join me in continuing to mask up and follow CDC guidelines.

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