FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - The Flagstaff City Council is casting a critical eye on Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order barring local governments from enforcing mask-wearing mandates to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The council on Friday issued a statement saying it doesn’t plan to rescind the city’s proclamation requiring mask-wearing but won’t enforce it while studying Ducey’s order Thursday that also lifted the state’s own remaining COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and events.
COVID-19 continues to spread and Ducey’s order "is not in the best interest of public health and further erodes home rule," the Flagstaff council’s statement said.
The state governor had lifted city and county mask requirements earlier this week.
"Today we are in a different spot, and we are also a lot smarter," Ducey said. "I’m confident Arizona’s businesses and citizens will continue to act responsibly as we gradually get back to normal."
Regardless, Flagstaff city leaders aren't stopping their requirements.
"With the full support of the Flagstaff City Council, I do not plan to rescind the face covering proclamation," saud Mayor Paul Deasy. "We’ve requested the staff looks further into this matter. The proclamation will remain in place, but will not be enforced while the city analyzes the impact of the executive order."
Paul Bender, a law professor at Arizona State University, says he has some doubts about the power of Ducey's order.
"The legislature has to do that," Bender said. "The governor, I don’t think, has any general power to tell cities what to do."
Bender questioned the governor's ability to strip city and county abilities to have mask requirements without the Arizona Legislature.
"This is something the city should be able to do in their own interest unless the legislature gives the power to the governor to stop them, or the legislature itself does something to stop them," Bender said.
The city council will meet on Tuesday, March 30 to decide their next steps.
Arizona health officials on March 28 reported 554 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and six more deaths.
The latest numbers increased the state’s totals to 839,888 cases and 16,918 known deaths since the pandemic began more than a year ago.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
According to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, more than 3.2 million vaccine doses have been administered to Arizonans with 1.2 million residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Saturday morning.
Slightly more than 2 million Arizonans — 28.4% of the state’s population — have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, health officials said the number of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 inpatients in the state’s hospitals decreased to 562 on Saturday — the lowest number since Oct. 3.
The number of ICU beds used by coronavirus patients fell to 160, down by 21 from Friday. That’s the fewest beds used since Oct. 12.