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CG businesses await guidelines on new mask requirement

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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CG dad in quarantine to spend Father's Day missing kids

CASA GRANDE — On Father’s Day this year, Joe Garza IV will only see his three children though a computer screen when they video-chat together. Later, from a safe distance miles apart, he might engage in an online game of “Fortnite” or “Call of Duty” with them.

Garza, 34, is currently in quarantine awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test and his children live nearby with their mother. He hasn’t seen them since his quarantine began.

“Usually I have my kids for the Father’s Day weekend and we spend it camping or taking a ride or just hanging out, but this year because I’m in quarantine, they’ll stay with their mom,” Garza said. “I’ll miss them.”

Garza’s three children — Joe, 15, Lexi, 13, and Juliana, 9 — spend weekends and holidays with him. Every Father’s Day is special, he said, with fun activities planned.

“It’s tough not being able to see them, but when this is all over I’ll see them again. At least I know they’re in the same town as I am,” he said. “I do talk to them over the phone, and they’re concerned. They ask me how I’m feeling and when they can see me again.”


Joe Garza is pictured with his family on a recent vacation. Garza is surrounded by son Joe, clockwise from back left, girlfriend Gabriela, daughter Lexi, daughter Juliana and his Gabriela's son Felipe.

Garza isn’t sure where he was exposed to the virus. One day a few weeks ago, he wasn’t feeling well and had some of the COVID-19 symptoms including body aches, chest pain, headache and other flu-like symptoms.

“This virus is like a ninja, it can sneak up on you and get you anywhere,” he said.

He visited his physician for a COVID-19 test and is waiting for the results. In the meantime, he’s in quarantine, coping with his symptoms and being careful not to spread the virus to others.

“My friends, family and coworkers have all been very supportive,” he said. “They call me to see how I’m doing and ask if I’m OK. When people show they care, it makes coping with this a lot easier.”

His girlfriend, who is currently expecting a baby, and her young son, Felipe, are also in quarantine with him.

Garza is a unit manager for an area correctional facility. He spent five years as a rifleman in the U.S. Marine Corps, during which he was deployed three times, including stints overseas.

“During those times I was deployed, I wasn’t able to see my kids and that was tough,” he said. “Each deployment was six to eight months, but we learned ways to keep in contact and keep in touch.”

Once his Marine career ended, he told his kids he was home to stay.

“I told them I wouldn’t leave again and that I’m not going anyplace. And in those 10 years, we’ve had a great relationship,” he said. “We have a lot of fun together.”

Keeping his children and others safe from COVID-19 is his main priority right now.

“I talk to my kids on the phone a lot, and they always ask when they can come see me. I know I’ll see them again when this is over,” he said.

A Father’s Day celebration can wait, he said.

“I think the biggest thing a father can do is be strong and let their kids know that they’re there and show love and support,” he said. “COVID-19 is temporary. We’ll be back together again soon.”

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State, Pinal see record jumps in COVID-19 cases

PHOENIX — Arizona and Pinal County saw record jumps in new reported cases of the coronavirus Friday.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the state had 3,246 new cases Friday morning while Pinal County reported 242. Both were new highs for daily reports.

The total number of cases reported in the state now stands at 46,689, with 2,300 reported in Pinal County. Arizona has now tested 532,697 people. But the rate of infection continues to increase. It is now 7.8% of those tested.

Health officials reported 41 new deaths statewide, while Pinal had two new deaths.

The city of Maricopa also reported its highest daily jump with 30 new cases, bringing its total to 216.

Casa Grande reported 50 new cases for its second highest daily increase in its three ZIP codes. Casa Grande continues to be the hot spot in Pinal County with 458 total cases reported.

The 85122 ZIP code in Casa Grande, the largest in the city, has doubled the number of positive COVID-19 cases since June 5 while the 85194 ZIP code has doubled its count since Tuesday for a total of 23.

Eloy went up 41 Friday for a total of 384 cases reported while Florence saw an increase of 19, for 304 total cases. Arizona City had 13 new cases for a total of 84.

The San Tan Valley/Queen Creek area also had a big jump, with 51 new cases reported Friday for a total of 424. But some of San Tan Valley’s three ZIP codes include parts of Maricopa County.

Arizona has emerged as a national hot spot for coronavirus since Gov. Doug Ducey lifted stay-home orders in mid-May.

Ducey on Wednesday reversed himself and allowed counties and municipalities to mandate use of face masks in public to slow spread of the coronavirus.

He rejected calls for a statewide requirement.

Cities including Casa Grande, Tucson and Flagstaff this week approved masking mandates.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.