COOLIDGE — Some cities are firm on their stance about enforcing face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, while others are still exploring the issue, according to the Pinal Partnership's virtual mayors' update on Friday.
Earlier this week, Gov. Doug Ducey announced that he would allow mayors to make the call on mandating masks as the number of COVID-19 cases in Arizona surged.
Some Pinal County municipalities, such as Casa Grande, said they will require residents to wear masks since Ducey's announcement on Wednesday.
Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland said the decision on the mandate came as a response to the surge in cases the city witnessed over the last week.
As of Friday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped from 408 across the city's three ZIP codes to 453. On Monday, the total was at 309.
McFarland said the city would release an official proclamation regarding the mandate, which will go into effect Saturday. The requirement will stay in place until the rate of infections declines.
The proclamation will allow for some exceptions, he said, specifically for those with certain medical conditions, children under the age of 6 or those dining in restaurants while observing social distancing.
The town of Superior is also taking a similar stance, mandating the use of face masks in public.
Since June 11, the COVID-19 cases in the town have risen from less than five to 17.
Mayor Mila Besich said in a small community like Superior the matter is personal and hits very close to home.
"These are not just numbers, these aren't just addresses, these are people that we know," Besich said. "Our community experienced our first death (from the virus), so it's very real (and) it's connected to everyone."
However, under the direction of their mayors, other cities are taking a different approach — recommending the use of masks rather than mandating it.
For Maricopa residents, the choice to wear a mask in public will likely remain voluntary.
Christian Price, mayor of Maricopa, noted that under the state of Arizona's COVID-19 requirements for businesses, restaurants and bars, those that serve the public are ordered to adopt policies that follow the guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encompassing masks or other face coverings where physical distancing is not possible.
The guidelines apply to an array of businesses and require those companies to inform customers about their policies, which can include asking customers to wear face masks, Price said.
The requirements as outlined by the state have led the city to request, rather than require, Maricopa residents to wear a mask.
"If you're a business that can't social distance then the governor has said you have to require masks and you have to enforce it," he said. "The city of Maricopa is filling the gap, and that gap from your car to walking into that business is our request for you to wear a mask."
Similarly, the town of Queen Creek has also opted to recommend, but not mandate, the use of face masks.
But some mayors see the mandates as an encroachment on civil liberties. Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy asserted that he decided to leave the decision up to individuals, asserting that cities do not have the right to mandate one way or another.
In Florence, Eloy and Coolidge, no concrete announcements have been made regarding mask requirements.
Mayor Tara Walter of Florence told those logged onto Friday's virtual meeting that she had spoken to mayors around the state to get their insight on what options are available to cities when it comes to implementing, or not implementing, a mask requirement.
Walter also said she met on Thursday with the town manager and other staff members to examine the available data on Florence's COVID-19 cases and consider what measures surrounding municipalities have taken so far. But no definitive decision has yet been made by the town.
"I just want to make sure that we're making the right decision that will reflect our community," Walter said. "Our stance right now is encouraging people to be informed, understand what the guidelines are and wear a mask if you choose to."
Like Florence, Eloy is home to several correctional facilities. But with the number of COVID-19 cases only broken down by ZIP code, Vice Mayor Micah Powell noted that it's next to impossible to determine how many of those cases are confined to detention centers.
Powell said that Eloy city officials plan to meet on Monday to discuss what measures would best suit the community.
The city of Coolidge announced Thursday that it is working with city attorneys to determine the best course of action related to Ducey's latest guidelines.
Since Monday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases within Coolidge has increased by 36.
Coolidge Mayor Jon Thompson said that of the individuals who had either reached out to City Hall or to members of the council personally, Coolidge citizens appeared to be split 50-50 about the desire for a mask requirement.