Face Masks

A sign posted Thursday outside the Casa Grande Main Library encourages visitors to wear a face mask.

CASA GRANDE – A new city of Casa Grande requirement that all members of the public wear masks while visiting city businesses or City Hall has resulted in business owners looking for ways to comply.

The city announced the requirement Wednesday evening following a press conference at which Gov. Doug Ducey announced he was giving cities the authority to determine if masks were necessary in their city limits.

The city of Casa Grande released its proclamation requiring residents wear masks in public Friday afternoon. The proclamation states that residents will be required to cover their mouth and nose with a face covering while in a public setting starting at 6 a.m. Saturday if they are or will come in contact with someone who does not live in their home and if they are in a place where they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance between themselves and the other person or persons.

Businesses are also required to have employees wear masks when dealing with customers and/or if an employee cannot maintain 6 feet of social distancing from another employee.

The proclamation defines a public setting as retail shops, barber shops, salons and spas, health care facilities including pharmacies, restaurants and bars, hotels, anywhere a line of people might form, ride-sharing vehicles and outdoor areas where a group of people might gather.

The proclamation does not require residents to wear surgical masks, a homemade mask will do. It also allows people to drive their personal or work vehicle without a mask as long as no one from outside of their household is sharing the vehicle. It also allows residents to work in a personal office without a mask, as long as the office is not frequently visited by members of the public.

Children under the age of 6 and people who have medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask are exempt from wearing a mask. Parents of children over the age of 6 are asked to do what they can to keep a mask on their child’s face. People with medical conditions are not required to show proof of their condition.

Restaurant patrons are asked to wear a mask when they enter the restaurant and leave their table for any purpose, but may remove it to eat and drink.

People exercising indoors or outdoors don’t have to wear a mask as long as they can maintain six feet of distance between themselves and others.

First responders and health care employees don’t have to wear a mask if it interferes with their ability to carry out their duties.

Residents whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a mask are also exempt.

Most business owners said they’ve already been taking steps to protect both their employees and the public from the COVID-19 virus.

Liza Cervantes at Liberty Tax said the business has been working with customers by appointment only for several weeks.

Only one customer and one employee is allowed to work in the office at a time, she said. And the office is cleaned and sanitized between each customer. Employees and customers are encouraged to wear masks.

Cervantes said she wasn’t sure what she would do if the city required businesses to offer masks to customers who didn’t have one. Masks are hard to find and offering one to each customer that walked in the door could get expensive.

Each business will have to decide for itself if it wants to provide masks to members of the public who enter their business without one, City Public Information Officer Latonya Jordan-Smith stated in an email Thursday afternoon. Businesses that would like to provide masks to their customers can apply to the city for funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act.

Melissa Engstrom, the owner of Deadlift Coffee Shop, said she installed sneeze guards and required employees to wear masks at work about a month ago. The shop does not take cash and has customers swipe their own cards in the shop’s customer-facing card reader. The reader is wiped down after each use and the shop is cleaned frequently throughout the day. She also marked the floor so customers know how far apart they should stand.

Engstrom also told her employees not to ask customers to wear a mask when they enter the business. She said she’s concerned it could lead to confrontation and jeopardize the safety of her employees.

“We don’t ask customers to wear a mask,” she said. “It’s their choice.”

Engstrom said her main concern is the health and safety of her employees and she feels that the measures she’s put in place — sneeze guards, cashless system and offering employees masks — will help protect them.

Ken Locklin at Goodruby Christian Book Shop said his shop is following the law. All of his employees wear masks, but he’s not requiring or asking customers to wear a mask. The shop has more than enough space for customers to maintain a safe 6-foot distance from each other. And all employees who come within 6 feet of a customer, such as at the cash register, are required to wear a mask, he said.

Dallas Giddens, the owner of Giddens Tire Pros, said he had heard of the mask requirement but wasn’t sure what it all entailed and he simply hadn’t had the time to research it.

Jordan-Smith said the city sent out a press release announcing the mask requirement to about 65,000 contacts and posted the message to the city’s website and social media channels Wednesday evening.

“We encourage all those who want to learn more about city initiatives to check the city website and social media channels frequently or subscribe to our newsletters on the city website at CasaGrandeAZ.gov,” she said.

Most business owners don’t have time to check a government website, social media or email for the latest information, Giddens said.

“(The city) needs to deliver this proclamation to each business in the city,” he said. “They need to explain their thinking on it.”

Government recommendations and requirements on COVID-19 have changed so frequently that he’s not sure what he’s supposed to do, he said.

Giddens said he didn’t think his business would be greatly impacted by the mask requirement. Most people drop off their cars to be worked on and come back later to pick them up.

“We might have six to eight people in here waiting,” he said.

Giddens said he had some pushback from employees when he asked them all to wear masks. The heat and the work they do on cars makes it difficult and uncomfortable to wear one. But they do. Employees also use plastic floor mats and sheeting to protect customers’ cars, but they have been doing that as a regular business practice since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proclamation also states that the city will focus on educating residents and businesses that are not following the guidelines and give them the chance to comply. Only after repeated violations will someone be cited.

Casa Grande Police Chief Mark McCrory stated in an email on Friday, “We are still maintaining this is not a police department issue. This is a public health issue, that we hope our community adheres to for the benefit of everyone’s health and well-being. Our department’s plan is to continue to educate and not enforce with citations or arrest. Our community overall has been receptive to reminders and education and it is our hope this continues.”

“However, at some point if education fails and we are tasked with repeatedly going to the same establishment, a citation can be issued. I want to emphasize this is going to be used ONLY as a last resort for businesses and individuals,” McCrory stated.

He also pointed out that businesses have the right to require all customers to wear masks and refuse entry to any customer who does not want to wear a mask.

“In essence, they have a right to refuse entry and could have someone trespassed,” he stated. “This would be an instance where we could be called and issue a citation for trespassing only. We (police) are not going to be patrolling looking for ‘mask violations’ or conducting business checks for compliance.”

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Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa is a reporter covering the city of Casa Grande and the surrounding area, as well as Central Arizona College. She can be reached at sadams@pinalcentral.com.

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