The mask mandate in Tempe is still in place, the city's mayor and city council decided Thursday. Tempe joins Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson in keeping the mandate despite Gov. Doug Ducey's March 25 executive order that said county, city and town mandates would need to be phased out.
The mandate has been in place since June 18, 2020, and its continuation will "assert Tempe's right to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic," Mayor Corey Woods said in a statement.
Masks are required in all public spaces where it is difficult or impossible to maintain social distancing, such as city facilities, public transit and all other businesses.
The city received legal advice during a meeting Thursday, which led to the decision to keep the mandate after about two weeks of compliance with the executive order. Woods said at the meeting this week's informal opinion from the Arizona Attorney General's office that allowed Pima County to keep and enforce its mandate offered hope Tempe could keep its mandate too.
"City Manager Andrew Ching will work with city staff and outside entities such as Arizona State University and the Arizona Department of Health Services to establish science-based, objective thresholds for Tempe so that we will have indicators about when to responsibly end our city mask mandate," Woods said in a statement.
Woods was not available for additional comment.
The mandate will also give more clarity to the city's businesses as they begin to return to normal operations and "economic recovery," Woods said. Businesses that do not comply with the mandate will not be cited until education and warnings can be given.
The University reported 67 total active cases of COVID-19 Thursday, an increase of five from the beginning of the week. On Friday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 1,302 new cases and seven deaths.
"If we continue to work together, we will beat this pandemic and return to life as normal sooner rather than later," Woods said in a statement.
Editor Piper Hansen contributed to the reporting of this article.
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