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Ducey encourages masks, leaves mandate up to mayors

Posted at 9:36 PM, Jun 17, 2020

PHOENIX — On May 12, Governor Ducey said, "We are clearly on the other side of this (COVID-19) pandemic." On Wednesday though, it was a very different message.

"We are not out of the woods," said Ducey in a media briefing. "The trend is headed in the wrong direction and the actions that we are going to are intended to change that direction and reverse this trend."

The governor has repeatedly touted his less heavy-handed approach. "Our timing has been later, and our touch has been lighter around restrictions in the economy," he said again on Wednesday.

Those "lighter" decisions have been made solely by the governor, who has resisted calls to let local leaders make independent decisions that would lead to inconsistent mandates and enforcement across the state.

"I will continue to believe that the government closest to the people is his master, except in a global pandemic. We want to have clarity and consistency for our citizens, and we want to reduce the confusion that happened across the state and across the country," said Ducey on June 11.

Six days, and thousands of new COVID-19 cases later, Governor Ducey pulled a 180.

"We are going to change and update guidance so that local governments can implement mask and face covering policies and determine enforcement," he said.

The decision comes after elected leaders from across the state have been pleading for more action or local authority.

"On this issue we needed more flexibility and the flexibility is going to be given to the mayors. I want to thank the mayors for their input," said Ducey.

Within hours, mayors from Tucson, Mesa, Tempe, Nogales, Flagstaff, and others said they would be mandating masks. Phoenix will vote at its next council meeting, but Mayor Kate Gallego has already expressed her strong support for the cloth covering requirement in public.

Ducey is also implementing changes statewide, specifically changing business safety recommendations to requirements.

"There will now be requirements for restaurants and businesses to enforce physical distancing - to ensure that there are safeguards in place to prevent transmission," said Dr. Cara Christ, Director of Arizona Department of Health Services.

The governor is still optimistic about hospital capacity, but he acknowledged that the state is not on the right path.

"We do have capacity. But the increase, the direction, and the cases are all concerning," he said.

Also, for one of the first times in more than 100 days, Ducey publicly wore a face mask.

It was a noted change, as the governor looks to shift the behavior of Arizonans and with it, the spread of COVID-19.

"We have successfully slowed the spread in the past, and we are going to slow the spread again."