Masks will be required in Greenlee County public areas through at least the middle of August where social distancing of at least six feet can’t be maintained.
During a June 30 meeting, in a 2-1 vote, the Greenlee County Board of Supervisors approved a countywide mandate requiring face coverings for anyone age six and up “inside the enclosed area of any place of public accommodation.”
Parents of children ages two to five “shall use reasonable efforts” to get them to wear face coverings in such areas.and employees of businesses that serve the public when they work in areas open to the public.
“Place of public accommodation,” according to the mandate, includes restaurants, lodging, stores, sidewalks, trails and parks.
The mandate, which went into effect July 1, also requires employees of businesses that serve the public to wear masks when they work in areas open to the public or where they’re likely to contact other employees.
It doesn’t apply to people in their homes or alone in their vehicles or private offices. Other exemptions include people who can’t wear a mask because of a medical or mental health issue or a developmental disability; children younger than two; restaurant customers while eating or drinking; and people exercising in communal outdoor spaces with social distancing.
Exceptions also include emergency responders and public safety workers, when a face covering would impede their ability to perform essential functions; people following directions from emergency responders or public safety workers; anyone in settings where a face covering is impractical (getting dental work or swimming); and teachers or court witnesses who wear a face shield.
As far as enforcing the mandate, public education on the dangers of COVID-19 community spread will be the first focus. Violators will be notified of the regulations and given a chance to comply before enforcement sets in.
A first offense will result in a warning; further offenses can bring fines of up to $50. People who don’t wear a face covering because of a medical condition won’t be asked to show verification of the condition.
“We’re not going to be able to be the mask police; we don’t have the resources for that,” County Sheriff Tim Sumner said at the June 30 meeting. “I’m not sure how the enforcement’s going to be handled. We’re not going to violate any HIPAA rules. I’ll make sure we’re directed to not be requesting or asking anyone about why they’re not wearing as far as medical or mental health reasons.”
Before the vote, Supervisor David Gomez said “We’re here having a discussion about people’s lives. It’s about protecting our citizens. Here in Greenlee County we’re all family and it affects every single one of us when a tragedy occurs. I’m here to make a decision to protect our citizens and their well-being, and I have to live with whatever decision I make.”
Gomez and Supervisor Ron Campbell voted to approve the mandate; Chairman Richard Lunt cast a “Nay” vote.
“I believe it should be a choice to wear a mask and not a mandate,” Lunt said before voting. “Please be considerate of those who cannot wear facial coverings for health or mental reasons. Please be kind to each other. When this is over we will still be neighbors.”
The board will review the mandate at their first meeting in August. If they do not renew it, it will expire on Aug. 15.