UPDATE: As of Tuesday, June 23 at 12;15 p.m., the meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 24, will be a work session to discuss the county's FY 2020-21 budget only. Any action on face masks is not on the agenda for his meeting. The Board of Supervisor's office said they are waiting for more information from other communities on face masks.
A special meeting would need to be set to discuss and take action on face masks. The earliest this could occur would be Wednesday afternoon, as the agenda for such a meeting would need to be posted 24 hours ahead of the meeting.
The Pioneer will be checking back with the county website to see if anything has been posted this afternoon.
The La Paz County Board of Supervisors discussed they should mandate county residents were face masks because of the coronavirus pandemic at a special meeting June 22, but they decided to take no action. The Board Chairman, District 3 Supervisor Holly Irwin said they would make a decision at a special meeting Wednesday, June 24.
This came in the wake of Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order of June 17 that allowed local jurisdictions to decide whether they would mandate their residents wear face mask. The state has seen a major increase in the number of coronavirus cases since May 15, when Ducey’s “stay-at-home” order was lifted. There have been days since then that more than 2,000 new cases have been reported. There have been more than 50,000 cases in the state and more than 1,300 deaths.
At the June 22 meeting, County Health Director Marion Shontz said there had been 279 cases in the county and four deaths. More than 200 of the cases came from the Colorado River Indians Tribes with people being tested at Parker Indian Health Center.
The Parker Town Council met June 19 and did not mandate masks in public places within the town, but they did strongly recommend people wear them. The CRIT Tribal Council voted to make masks mandatory in public places on Tribal lands.
At the start of the discussion at the June 22 Supervisors’ meeting, Deputy County Attorney Ryan Dooley, who was attending the meeting by telephone, said the county would need to declare an emergency to mandate masks in unincorporated areas of the county.
District 1 Supervisor D.L. Wilson was the only one of the Supervisors who said he wanted to mandate masks.
Wilson said he’d been struggling with the matter all weekend. He said La Paz had the fifth highest number of cases per capita of the 15 counties in the state. He noted the county and state haven’t leveled off yet, and are still seeing an increase in the number of cases.
“We need to do something to stop this,” he said. “We need to require masks.”
Irwin said she’d had a lot of conversations about the matter over the weekend. She said she did not believe the government should be telling people how to live. She added she would not ask the Sheriff’s Office to enforce this.
At the same time, Irwin said the county needed to do something.
“We need to take a stand for public health,” she said.
District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor he preferred a campaign to increase public awareness of how people can protect themselves and others more than mandating masks. He said he knew two people who had tested positive for the virus, one of whom shows no symptoms. Minor also did not want to create a rule if the county cannot enforce it.
Minor also remarked there has been a lot of contradictory information on what to do about the coronavirus. He has heard “experts” say masks stop the virus, and other “experts” say masks do more harm than good.
“Today, there’s an expert on everything who will tell you what you want to hear,” he said.
Irwin agreed on the confusing information, and noted the information available seems to be changing from day to day.
“Supposedly, the heat was going to kill the virus,” she said. “Well, that isn’t happening.”
In Call to the Public, the Supervisors heard some strong words from area resident Judy Enrico-Maye.
“You’re weren’t hired as doctors,” she said. “You were hired to run and take care of the county! I have underlying issues and can’t wear a mask. Most masks aren’t effective anyway! This is not what we elected you for!”
After she spoke Enrico-Maye left the Boardroom.
The Board decided to take no action, but to wait until a special meeting set for Wednesday, June 24.
According to figures posted June 22 on the La Paz County Health Department’s website, there have been 279 cases in La Paz County. There have been 54,586 cases in the state, with 31,650 of them in Maricopa County. There have been 1,342 deaths.