BISBEE — As the spread of COVID–19 continues to climb drastically in Arizona, Cochise County and now Bisbee, Mayor David Smith is adamant about protecting the city and about requiring residents and visitors to wear facial masks in all public places within the city limits.

On June 17, he issued an emergency declaration after Gov. Doug Ducey allowed municipalities and counties to deal with the mask issue as officials saw fit.

Smith’s emergency proclamation stated, “City buildings will remain closed to the public and commission meetings will return this month, using remote technology. All persons within the city of Bisbee will wear a mask designed for or appropriate to halt the spread of COVID–19 while in public” with the exception of driving and other non–public locations like homes and yards.

While some welcomed the order, others did not, and arguments have broken out between those who do and don’t wear face coverings.

People who cannot wear masks due to health reasons are exempt from the order, but a business owner still has the right to refuse service, as Smith’s proclamation protects them from American Disability Act liability.

“A business establishment isn’t required to serve you or allow you on premises without a mask, even with your valid reason not to wear one and they cannot be held liable for that action,” Smith said.

“The police will continue to use common sense in the enforcement of this order,” he continued. “People simply being outside, for example, a morning walk, will not be cited if others are not in their vicinity. Restaurants and bars will be held to CDC standards that have not changed since being allowed to open.”

Restaurants and bars are still banned from offering live music or other entertainment, and must practice social distancing, limit seating and require staff to wear masks and gloves. As guests leave, the staff must sanitize all surfaces.

CDC guidelines that must be followed include reduced seating, six–foot social distancing between people or groups of people and surfaces have to be sanitized after every guest leaves.

“Please all, just follow the CDC guidelines while engaging in business and please use our local businesses as much as possible to help them during this time. It is a two–way street,” he added.

Safeway positive case

Smith took his proclamation to the Southwest Valley Constructors (SVC) office, new occupants in the Bisbee Plaza, and to Safeway. SVC has a sign on the door “no admission without a mask” and workers are compliant with the mayor’s order.

Though he requested all Safeway staff wear masks and require customers to wear them, some staff members told customers they did not have to enforce the mask policy. Smith pointed out it was not true and staff should refrain from making such statements.

He said he spoke with Safeway corporate officials and asked for a “no mask, no admittance” policy. The store will post signage indicating masks are required and will hand out masks to those who need them, but staff will not enforce the rules, Smith said.

“I also indicated my knowledge of positive cases involving employees and asked for their policy,” Smith said.

Safeway’s Nancy Keane, public affairs and government relations, provided a statement to the Herald/Review.

“The health and safety of everyone who walks through our doors is a top priority,” her statement said. “We have learned that an associate at our store on Naco Highway in Bisbee has a confirmed case of COVID–19. First, and foremost, our thoughts are with the associate who tested positive and we hope for a full recovery. That associate is now receiving medical care.”

Keane explained the associate had not worked at the store since June 15 and there have been “multiple cycles of enhanced cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting process” with a third party sanitation company.

Keane indicated more staff may be quarantined and store employees will follow precautions of handwashing and disinfecting surfaces following CDC guidelines. They are not to come to work if they feel ill.

Cases still increasingAs of Thursday morning, the state has had over 63,000 people diagnosed with COVID–19 with nearly 1,500 deaths. Hospitals statewide have reached over 88 percent capacity, the state reported. Just one month ago, the state reported 16,561 diagnoses and 806 deaths.

Cochise County has recorded 468 people diagnosed with the virus, resulting in the deaths of six people. Bisbee has more than six cases and one death.

Smith also pointed out, “Arizona is, according to national news, is one of the top four states in rising cases since the lifting of most restrictions and we remain last in testing numbers. Funding for testing has ceased. Arizona residents are now required to quarantine for 14 days when visiting Connecticut, New York or New Jersey.”

“Please continue to stay at home if possible,” he said.

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