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FLORENCE — Pinal County Board of Supervisors Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, can give direct orders as needed to contain the spread of COVID-19 under a state of emergency the board declared.

Without action of the full board, Smith may govern by proclamation and impose all necessary regulations and guidelines to preserve public health and safety for the next 30 days. “Things may need to move fast,” Chief Deputy County Attorney Chris Keller told the board Friday.

He added that any of the chairman’s orders would be brought before the full board within three days, and if they’re not ratified or changed, they would automatically expire.

Keller further recommended the board reconsider this emergency declaration for either revision or repeal every 30 days. The board’s declaration is limited to unincorporated areas and doesn’t affect what cities and towns may have done with their own emergency proclamations, Keller told the board.

Smith asked his fellow supervisors and County Manager Louis Andersen to suggest ideas in the days ahead for how the county’s new “civil service leave program” could help during the current emergency. The program allows up to 100 county employees in the current calendar year to qualify for eight hours of paid leave to help out in another Pinal County department or at a United Way-supported event.

“I think this is a grand opportunity for us as Pinal County to be there for our citizens, and find the gaps where we may need some additional help in certain areas” such as places where regular volunteers are unavailable, Smith said.

The board’s proclamation says county facilities will remain open, but residents are encouraged to conduct county business online or by phone. County facilities and offices may also need to shorten hours, reduce or delay services or restrict the number of people they can meet with at one time, according to the proclamation. County staff are directed to postpone, whenever possible, all non-essential hearings relating to code compliance and other regulatory matters.

The board passed both a proclamation and a resolution Friday. The proclamation states the county manager is authorized and directed to follow both documents, “and to take those measures that are necessary and appropriate to protect and promote public health and safety, including but not limited to, actions to limit face-to-face interactions between county staff and members of the public, or limit hours of operation of county facilities. This authority does not extend to any law enforcement agency or court facility under the direction of the presiding judge.

“All citizens, businesses and organizations are urged to cooperate with this proclamation and to every degree possible, follow and abide by safety announcements, advisories and restrictions established by national, state and local officials.”

The resolution states members of the public are urged to follow all social distancing and other safety announcements to avoid groups of 10 or more people; avoid contact with those with elevated risks associated with COVID-19; stay home and contact their medical providers if they or others within their household feel sick; and practice good personal hygiene including regular thorough washing of their hands, avoiding contact with their face and frequently disinfecting high-use areas.

The board also considered encouraging restaurants to emphasize delivery, drive-thru and take-out, or at least limit dine-in customers to 10, but excluded this language since Gov. Doug Ducey’s order Thursday night made it moot. Ducey’s directive shutters bars, gyms and movie theaters in counties where there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 and to allow only take-out and delivery services by restaurants. This currently affects eight of the state’s 15 counties, including Pinal.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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