PHOENIX - Mayors from Phoenix, Tolleson, Tucson, and Flagstaff participated in a Zoom conference on Nov. 20, asking Governor Doug Ducey to implement a statewide mask mandate.
These mayors all say it's the governor's responsibility to lead the way in sending a strong message.
They accused the governor of failing to provide leadership in the state’s battle against a new surge of the coronavirus.
"What we need is decisive statewide actions, and unfortunately we are not seeing that from Gov. Ducey," Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said.
Ducey Chief of Staff Daniel Scarpinato pushed back on the request, noting that the mayors were doing little to enforce their own mask and safety ordinances.
"They have enforcement power, and they’re not using it," Scarpinato said.
"I think the steps that we’ve put in place, the participation that we have, has got the maximum amount of compliance with Arizonans wearing a mask," Ducey said. "In addition, it’s nearly impossible to participate in our economy anywhere without wearing a mask."
That wasn’t good enough for the mayors, who also included Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans, Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.
"The police department has had hundreds of education contacts with our residents talking about the importance of masks. We believe that arresting people and putting them in jail where that would be one of the most likely areas of transmission is not the way to get through this. We're going to need people in their own homes to make the right decisions," Gallego said.
Ducey said at a news conference Wednesday that he would not impose a statewide order because 90% of the population is already under county and city mandates that he allowed them to implement in June and state orders require masks in gyms and some other businesses.
Gallego and Romero did acknowledge that their police forces were not doing aggressive mask enforcement, saying it was county health departments that oversee compliance in businesses.
"If we had a statewide mandate there wouldn’t be mixed messages. There would be a united front on how we’re tackling this issue," Tovar said. "COVID doesn’t stop at our city limits. We are trying our best to do everything possible. But boy would it so much be easier if we had that leadership and that cooperation from Gov. Ducey."
They also said Ducey has barred them from implementing any measures he did not approve.
"We're in a very difficult situation right now. Experts at our universities tell us if we do not change behavior by December, our hospital system will have to make difficult decisions about who gets the appropriate amount of care," said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.
"How can we be moving forward together and solving this COVID crisis if our leadership at the top is not communicating with the key stakeholders that can bring forward solutions to slow the spread in our communities?" asked Mayor Anna Tovar of Tolleson.
Their comments matched Ducey’s own preference for a focus on education. State health officials have shut down businesses that were not following guidelines, and on Thursday announced they had closed a Phoenix-area gym.
The state Department of Health Services reported 4,471 new cases on Nov. 21 and 43 additional deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 291,696 cases and 6,427 deaths.
The number of reported infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Arizona have climbed steadily since October and into November, reaching 1,835 as of Thursday, including 431 patients in intensive care beds.