In the wake of Gov. Doug Ducey stating June 17 that local jurisdictions would be allowed to decide if they wanted to mandate people wearing face masks in public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Parker Town Council voted unanimously June 19 not to mandate they be worn in public places in the town. They “strongly recommended” people wear the masks, and urged people to practice social distancing. They also said private businesses should be able to decide for themselves if they want their customers to wear masks.
This came the same day the Colorado River Indian Tribes mandated that everyone wear a mask in public places on Tribal lands. The La Paz County Board of Supervisors are scheduled to discuss and take action on the matter in a special meeting Monday, June 22 at 10 a.m.
In rejecting a mandate for people in the town to wear masks, the council cited personal choices and problems with enforcement among their reasons. They also said the town residents have done a fine job of practicing social distancing.
Prior to the vote, the members of the Council offered their opinions on the subject. Council Member Karen Bonds said could not be stressed enough how important it is to wear masks. She said that, from what she saw of the comments made to the Council, the issue was one of personal choice.
Council Member Marion Shontz, who is also La Paz County Health Director, praised businesses in the county and the town for how well they’ve handled the coronavirus pandemic. She said they’d promoted social distancing and some businesses now tell customers they have to wear a mask to come inside, which is their right.
“I’ve had calls from all over the county from businesses who didn’t know they could tell people they have to wear masks,” she said.
Shontz said the choice should be up to individuals. She noted some types of masks are more effective than others. She added that some people can’t wear masks for other health reasons. She also questioned whether this was something they wanted to spend law enforcement resources on.
“Are we going to put Police Chief Mike Bailey on mask patrol?” she asked.
Council Member Frank Savino also said this was a personal choice. He said he wore a mask (he was wearing one at the council meeting) because he wanted to protect himself and others. He said his grandchildren would be visiting soon, and he would wear a mask to protect them.
Are masks good or bad? Council Member Randy Hartless asked this question and then answered it by saying that depended on which study you read. He said he felt mandating masks was an overreach.
“It’s not our place to do it,” he said. “I just can’t see this working. Now, for a private business, that’s their business.”
Vice Mayor Jerry Hooper, who was attending by telephone, said, “If we can’t enforce it, we shouldn’t do it.”
Mayor Dan Beaver said he was proud of how the people of Parker have handled the pandemic with social distancing and masks. He added that, while he recommends people wear masks in public places, he also felt that should be a choice.
“It’s your choice,” he said. “It’s not my choice to make for you.”
Hooper and Beaver both stated that, if you don’t feel well, stay home. If you’ve been tested, stay home until you get the results back.
At the start of the June 19 meeting, the Council heard from two people in Call to the Public. Judy Maye said she believed wearing a mask should be a personal choice. She added the people of Parker had done a great job of social distancing and taking care of each other.
Maye said she’s been upriver from Parker, and there she doesn’t see social distancing or people wearing masks.
Fred Nelson, a member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, noted all the cities and towns in Arizona that have mandated people wear masks. He said that, when he goes to the Parker Walmart, he sees a lot of people not wearing masks. These include Tribal members and visitors to the area, many of whom are from California.