Flood Watch
until SAT 11:00 PM MST, Coconino Plateau, Yavapai County Mountains, Little Colorado River Valley in Coconino County, Little Colorado River Valley in Navajo County, Little Colorado River Valley in Apache County, Western Mogollon Rim, Eastern Mogollon Rim, White Mountains, Northern Gila County, Yavapai County Valleys and Basins, Oak Creek and Sycamore Canyons, Western Pima County including Ajo/Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Tohono O'odham Nation including Sells, Upper Santa Cruz River and Altar Valleys including Nogales, Tucson Metro Area including Tucson/Green Valley/Marana/Vail, South Central Pinal County including Eloy/Picacho Peak State Park, Southeast Pinal County including Kearny/Mammoth/Oracle, Upper San Pedro River Valley including Sierra Vista/Benson, Eastern Cochise County below 5000 ft including Douglas/Wilcox, Upper Gila River and Aravaipa Valleys including Clifton/Safford, White Mountains of Graham and Greenlee Counties including Hannagan Meadow, Galiuro and Pinaleno Mountains including Mount Graham, Chiricahua Mountains including Chiricahua National Monument, Dragoon/Mule/Huachuca and Santa Rita Mountains including Bisbee/Canelo Hills/Madera Canyon, Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains including Mount Lemmon/Summerhaven, Baboquivari Mountains including Kitt Peak, Kofa, Central La Paz, Aguila Valley, Southeast Yuma County, Gila River Valley, Northwest Valley, Tonopah Desert, Gila Bend, Buckeye/Avondale, Cave Creek/New River, Deer Valley, Central Phoenix, North Phoenix/Glendale, New River Mesa, Scottsdale/Paradise Valley, Rio Verde/Salt River, East Valley, Fountain Hills/East Mesa, South Mountain/Ahwatukee, Southeast Valley/Queen Creek, Superior, Northwest Pinal County, West Pinal County, Apache Junction/Gold Canyon, Tonto Basin, Mazatzal Mountains, Pinal/Superstition Mountains, Sonoran Desert Natl Monument, San Carlos, Dripping Springs, Globe/Miami, Southeast Gila County

Pima County can enforce mask mandate, Arizona attorney general says

Pima County can continue to enforce its face-mask mandates to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in spite of an executive order issued by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey that bars local orders, according to an informal opinion issued by Arizona’s attorney general on April 6.

However, the opinion issued by Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office said the governor could order the state health department to issue rules barring local mandates or ignore the opinion and try to enforce his executive order on his own.

Three Republican lawmakers sought the opinion late last month after Pima County’s health department said it would continue to enforce its mask mandate despite Ducey’s new order barring local rules. Ducey cited lower COVID-19 cases and rising vaccination rates to end most business restrictions and revoke the ability of cities and counties to issue mask mandates.

RELATED: Pima County keeps mask mandate in defiance of Gov. Ducey

The opinion comes on the same day that Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said she would keep the city’s mask mandate in place.

"I stand with the majority of the Phoenix City Council who agree that the governor’s unilateral decision to order cities to abandon mask requirements is a case of significant government overreach," Gallego said in a statement. "The governor’s authority is not without limits."

Ducey has said local mask mandates were rarely enforced. But Pima County health officials argued they were instrumental in getting people to follow the recommendations of public health experts, who said masks are instrumental in limiting the spread of the virus. Flagstaff and Tucson also kept their mandates in place.

The opinion written by Brnovich’s solicitor general, Beau Roysden, said the governor’s executive orders are based on a section of Arizona law outside of the health code, which Pima County is using to enforce its mask mandate. That’s why it is possible for the state health department to issue rules, although those can take time to adopt.

Ducey’s spokesman, C.J. Karamargin, said his office is reviewing the informal opinion, what impact it has or authority it may assert.

"But given local governments’ inability, ineffectiveness and unwillingness to enforce mask ordinances when they were most necessary, we believe it is largely inconsequential," Karamargin said.

Attorney general opinions, formal or not, do carry the force of law.

Tuesday’s developments came as Arizona’s daily rate of additional confirmed COVID-19 cases continued to creep upward while the daily rate of related deaths is down.

Continued Coverage

Phoenix mask mandate will remain in effect despite Gov. Ducey's executive order

Officials with the City of Phoenix say the city's mask mandate, which was instituted in June of 2020, will remain in place despite an order by Gov. Doug Ducey that cities, towns and counties must now lift such mandates.

Arizona’s daily rate of COVID cases rising while deaths slow

Arizona on April 6 reported 570 additional confirmed cases and six deaths, increasing the pandemic totals to 845,480 cases and 16,996 deaths, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

Arizona Gov. Ducey signs COVID-19 liability shield

The measure was fiercely opposed by consumer advocates and lawyers, who say it will reward bad actors who flouted health guidance and endangered their workers or the public.