TEMPE KEEPS MASK MANDATE: Coverings required in businesses, public places, City Council affirms

Tempe joins Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff in keeping a mask mandate in place despite Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s March 25 Executive Order prohibiting such actions by local governments. –Tempe photo

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Tempe City Council on April 8 affirmed that the city will continue to enforce its mask mandate in all public places, effective immediately.

A mayoral proclamation requiring face coverings has been in place in Tempe since June 18, 2020, after Gov. Doug Ducey allowed local governments to enact such measures.

However, on March 25, Ducey issued an executive order prohibiting the mask mandates of local governments.

Tempe is among municipalities, along with Phoenix, that had since been evaluating impacts before taking this next step.

Like Tempe, Phoenix chose to keep its mask mandate in place. Tucson and Flagstaff said immediately after Ducey’s proclamation that they would go against the executive order and keep their mask mandates in place.

Tempe City Council took the action during its April 8 Work Study Session, taking into consideration Tempe Charter authority, state law and Arizona Attorney General opinions.

Mayor Corey Woods and Tempe City Council on April 8 retained the city’s  facemask mandate. –Wrangler News photo by Lee Shappell

The Council’s unanimous consensus was that Tempe’s mask mandate will be enforced again at all places of public accommodation in the city, including at all businesses, public transit and city facilities.

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods asked that city staff develop ways to use data about vaccine rates and case counts to guide Tempe in when it might sunset its mask mandate.

“Given the discussion amongst the Tempe City Council, City Manager Andrew Tempe Mayor Ching will work with city staff and outside entities such as Arizona State University and the Arizona Department of Health Services to establish science-based, objective thresholds for Tempe so that we will have indicators about when to responsibly end our city mask mandate,” Woods said in a statement.

The mayor of the other city served by Wrangler News, Kevin Hartke of Chandler, has supported the governor’s order from the outset.

“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.”

In accordance with Ducey’s initial requirements, Tempe has followed an education-before-citation approach to non-compliance with its mask 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 ordinance.

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.

In rolling back facemask mandates two weeks ago, 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.

Under the governor’s order, 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, he said. This includes youth sports.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

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.

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, several Arizona county and 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 were to be phased out, however mask usage still is encouraged, especially in groups that are not vaccinated.

“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.”

For questions, call Tempe 311 at 480-350-4311 on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

________________________________

TEMPE MAYOR COREY WOODS’ FULL STATEMENT

ON RETAINING THE CITY’S FACEMASK MANDATE 

The City of Tempe’s June 18, 2020, Mayoral Proclamation requiring face coverings remains in effect within the borders of Tempe.

I appreciate our community’s understanding that we needed time to have these conversations, and that we as a City Council wanted a chance to discuss this together at a public meeting. We were able to do that (April 8). And we were united in our consensus to assert Tempe’s right to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods

Shops, restaurants, event organizers, service businesses and so many more have experienced monumental challenges during this pandemic. Tourism is a major industry in our city. In Tempe this spring – with our local mask mandate in effect – our hotels were showing signs of the types of spring travel spikes we all count on. Around this time in 2020, hotel occupancy in Tempe was at about 18 percent. Now, one year later, hotel occupancy is around 76 percent. While that isn’t a “normal” spring in Tempe, it’s major progress – and it’s because of the increasing availability of vaccines and the public health precautions we have all taken. Our decision tonight helps provide certainty for hoteliers, restaurants, businesses and visitors.

Our Council was also concerned that the recent Executive Order (by Gov. Doug Ducey) had shifted the burden of enforcement to our local Tempe businesses. The decision made tonight once again frees businesses to focus on serving our community and continuing the journey toward economic recovery.

Given the discussion amongst the Tempe City Council, City Manager Andrew Ching will work with city staff and outside entities such as Arizona State University and the Arizona Department of Health Services to establish science-based, objective thresholds for Tempe so that we will have indicators about when to responsibly end our city mask mandate. Let’s establish a clearer picture of the road ahead for our own community. We would also like the information to be public and transparent. I have confidence we can take the guesswork out of our next steps in Tempe. The City Council can consider these draft thresholds at a future public meeting.

As Tempe has done since its mask proclamation took effect, the city will continue to take an education-first approach to enforcement. This education-first approach was mandated by Gov. Ducey in his June 17, 2020 Executive Order 2020-40. Businesses and individuals failing to comply after education/warnings will be cited.

The City Council truly believes this decision is in the best interests of residents and businesses. If we continue to work together, we will beat this pandemic and return to life as normal sooner rather than later.

Lee Shappell
Lee Shappell became a journalist because he didn’t become a rocket scientist! He exhausted the math courses available by his junior year in high school and earned early admission to Rice University, intending to take advantage of its relationship with the Johnson Space Center and become an aerospace engineer. But as a high school senior, needing a class to be eligible for sports with no more math available, he took student newspaper as a credit and was hooked. He studied journalism at the UofA and has been senior reporter, copy desk chief and managing editor at several Valley publications.

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