PIMA COUNTY, AZ — In a letter released Tuesday, Pima County officials say face masks are still required throughout the county despiteArizona Gov. Doug Ducey's recent executive order.
Pima County Attorney's Office provided a letter to County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry last week saying Gov. Ducey does not have legal authority to prevent the county health department from "enacting reasonable public health measures."
Officials said resolution 2020-96, passed by the Board of Supervisors in December 2020, remains in effect and mandates that everyone in Pima County must wear a face mask over their nose and mouth unless they have a qualifying exemption or are able to maintain physical distance.
Those violating the resolution can face fines of $500 per infraction.
In collaboration with other Pima County officials, County Health Department Director, Deputy County Attorney Dr. Francisco Garcia, and Dr. Theresa Cullen recommend enforcing the mask mandate at businesses regulated by the health department or any establishment preparing or serving food.
“This pandemic is not over. There are still hundreds of thousands of people in Pima County who are not vaccinated and who remain at risk for serious illness or death if they contract COVID-19,” Dr. Garcia said. “The best protection they have until they get vaccinated is for everyone to continue to wear their masks.”
Dr. Cullen said that even though the number of vaccinations given continues to increase, she cautions that it won't be until early summer before county officials consider the community to achieve so-called herd immunity.
“We need between 700,000 and 800,000 people to get vaccinated. We need people to choose to get vaccinated at rates high enough to achieve herd immunity quickly,” Dr. Cullen said. “If we want to stop wearing masks, we need to stop community spread of COVID-19. And we can’t stop community spread of COVID until we get to herd immunity. So, if you want to stop having to wear a mask, go get your shot.”
Pima County leaders are back working with the agency to set up two federal pods in high-risk Latino communities, but the road getting there has been paved with controversy.
A dispute between the state and Pima County with both sides not really "talking" to each other.
It started after the state rejected FEMA's offer to run vaccine pods in Pima County.
Pima County got word of the state's concerns but didn't get any official word until the Health Director Dr. Cara Christ and the Governor announced decisions and reasons through the media.
In a letter to FEMA last week, the health director, Dr. Cara Christ, wrote the state will not help and criticized Pima County on how it's operating vaccine pods.