On Thursday Greenlee County and the Town of Duncan adopted statements encouraging, but not requiring, people to wear masks in public as a way to slow COVID-19 transmission.
Meeting Thursday morning and afternoon respectively, the County Board of Supervisors and Duncan Town Council approved the statements. Both encouraged residents to wear face coverings in public, especially when they can’t keep the recommended six-foot distance from other people.
Neither the county nor the town required masks, but they did ask people to respect businesses who ask them to wear one.
Some residents urged the board of supervisors to consider a mandate.
“Now is the time to make the hard decision,” said Amanda Gray of Gila Health Resources clinic in Morenci, who organized the county’s Stand Up and Mask Up program. “Now is the time to mandate masks, because it’s just the right thing to do.”
“If we don’t make it mandatory it won’t happen,” said Clifton resident Susan Breen.
At the request of Supervisors Ron Campbell and David Gomez, the board will take up the issue of an actual mandate in its June 30 meeting.
The county and town statements also encouraged social distancing, frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, staying home if sick and seeking medical advice and treatment if needed.
“Greenlee County asks that you do these things not because anyone has mandated it, but rather because we care about each other and we want to do our part to help keep each other safe,” the county said.
“There are many benefits to living in a rural community, one being that we have a history of taking care of each other in times of difficulty,” the Town of Duncan said in its statement.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, Clifton residents are required to wear face masks in public places where they can’t keep a six-foot distance from other people. A proclamation on mask-wearing and other measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 was dated and signed June 24 by Mayor Luis Montoya.
“We have been extremely concerned with the data that has been provided,” said Montoya. “On May 31 we had six positive cases; now we have 16. We need to do everything we can to flatten the curve and minimize transmission.”
The proclamation requires everyone over age 5 to wear a face covering in public when social distancing isn’t possible. It covers retail and grocery stores, pharmacies, healthcare facilities, restaurants and bars, gyms “and any other places where the public is allowed to enter.”
It also extends to outdoor areas like playgrounds, parking lots and places where people stand in line to enter a business, as well as to taxis and ride-share vehicles.
Exceptions include anyone working alone in a personal office, unless a client or customer enters the office; children under five; and anyone who can’t wear a mask because of a medical or mental health condition, a developmental disability or an inability to remove a mask without help.
According to the proclamation, enforcement will focus first on education and working to mitigate the virus’ spread. Before a citation is issued, people or businesses will be given a chance to follow the guidelines or explain if they fall under an exception.
In the document, Montoya strongly advised businesses to have employees work from home as much as possible.
Montoya said the proclamation would have no ending date but could be rescinded at any time if it caused serious problems or if COVID-19 declined.