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Bisbee mayor quickly issues COVID-19 mask order

The mayor of Bisbee ordered that everyone within his city wear a face covering to slow the spread of coronavirus, moving quickly after Gov. Doug Ducey lifted his ban on Arizona cities and counties mandating their own COVID-19 restrictions.

The emergency declaration by Mayor David Smith was issued Wednesday night, and takes effect at midnight.

Under it, "all persons within the city of Bisbee will wear a mask designed for or appropriate to the halt and spread of COVID-19 virus while in public."

"Masks are not required in the confines of homes, vehicles, or other non-public locations. Owners of establishments opened to the public may require the wearing of masks at their discretion," the order said.

Other sections of the order by Smith echoed Ducey's regulations, announced Wednesday, to require front-of-house restaurant staff to wear masks, and for businesses to following CDC guidelines on reduced seating and  social distancing.

Under the order, violators of the order in the small city (population about 5,000) about 100 miles southeast of Tucson may be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor under ARS 26-317.

Ducey said Wednesday that he will allow local governments to mandate wearing face coverings in public to stem the COVID-19 pandemic, faced with a chorus from Arizona's city and county officials and spiking coronavirus numbers.

Read more: Ducey allows cities, counties to mandate CV-19 face masks under pressure from local officials

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The Republican governor, reacting to the dramatic increase in the number of reported coronavirus cases, also ordered that businesses require employees to wear face coverings "when feasible," and that all Arizona front-of-house restaurant staff wear face masks.

He stopped well short of issuing a statewide mandate.

Ducey's earlier executive orders had barred local governments from setting any policies more restrictive than the governor's statewide orders.

With the number of reported coronavirus cases in the state nearly doubling in the past two weeks, Tucson and Pima County officials had pushed Ducey to allow them to issue more stringent requirements for people to wear face masks in public. Previously, Ducey had stuck with recommending masks without any enforcement, and has not publicly set an example by wearing a mask himself.

Ducey issued an executive order Wednesday, allowing counties, cities and towns to "adopt policies regarding the wearing of face coverings in public for the purpose of mitigating the spread of COVID-19."

Southern Arizona officials quickly said they would move to enact such policies.

"COVID-19 is still out there; it's still contagious," Pima County Chairman Ramón Valadez said Wednesday. "Wash your hands, don't touch your face, and wear a mask." The Pima County supervisors will discuss mask regulations on Friday.

Calling "untying the hands of local governments on wearing masks" a "positive step," Tucson Mayor Regina Romero tweeted that she plans on signing an emergency proclamation Thursday. "This will save lives."

Ducey acknowledged Wednesday that Arizona's count of coronavirus cases has dramatically increased in the last two weeks.

"There is an indication that we are not out of the woods," he said.

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Wednesday morning, state health officials said there were 40,924 total COVID-19 cases reported in Arizona, with 1,239 deaths — 20 more deaths reported and an increase of 1,827 cases from the previous day. Tuesday brought a record-high number of new coronavirus cases: 2,392 new reported positive diagnoses. Last Wednesday, there were 29,852 cases and 1,095 deaths in the state. Two weeks ago, there were 22,233 reported diagnosed cases and 981 people had died of the disease in the state.

"Serious changes need to be made, and there will be enforcement" against "bad actors" among businesses that do not mandate social distancing and other measures to slow the coronavirus, the Republican governor said.

Any local face-mask rules must allow individuals to comply with the measures before enforcement action is taken, the order said. Any enforcement against violators will be "up to the mayors and county supervisors," Ducey said.

Tucson and Pima County, along with the city of Nogales and Santa Cruz County, are each expected to enact some sort of mask mandate.

Earlier this week, Pima County Supervisors Sharon Bronson and Valadez had called for Ducey to give them the ability to set up local face-mask rules.

Mayor Romero had earlier in the day announced that she had directed the city attorney to "work on amending our local emergency proclamation to require wearing masks in public."

"Public health experts agree - the time to #MaskUpTucson is NOW," Romero had posted online.

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