DOUGLAS — Shortly after Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order prohibiting local governments from mandating face coverings in public settings, Douglas Mayor Donald Huish, in order to comply with the executive order, rescinded a June 2020 proclamation regarding face coverings in public spaces.
Luis Pedroza, Douglas’ interim city manager, said for the meantime face coverings will be requested to be worn for those visiting city hall or attending council meetings.
“We will be working on evaluating all facilities within the next few weeks to determine reopenings and protocols,” he said. “The governor’s order supersedes the city’s face covering mandate that mandated face coverings in public spaces and is therefore no longer in effect. The governor’s executive order allows for a private business to impose mandated face coverings when entering their private establishment. That is totally up to the business to decide.”
Pedroza noted that going forward, these policies may vary from facility to facility and will be evaluated and updated weekly with a phased reopening approach.
“We are proud of our citizens and businesses and the responsibilities they have taken on for the past year in taking extra measures to stay safe and playing a big part in fighting the spread of this pandemic,” Huish said. “We are happy to see that we are progressing and taking responsible steps towards getting back to normal. We continue to encourage everyone to exercise personal responsibility in dealing with this virus along with respecting the choices of others.”
Under the changes announced by Ducey:
Events of more than 50 people will no longer need the approval of local governments. These events should continue to follow safe practices and CDC recommendations, including physical distancing. This includes youth sports.
The business guidance will transform from requirements to recommendations. Ducey is providing businesses the ability to continue requiring masks and social distancing.
Bars have already been allowed to operate as “dine-in” at full capacity. They will now be allowed to resume regular operations, with the ability to require social distancing and masks.
Businesses and event organizers still have the option to require masks, social distancing and other preventive measures if they choose and are permitted to refuse service to anyone who does not comply with their requests to wear a mask.
The governor’s executive order encourages businesses and governmental entities to continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Many local businesses in Douglas welcomed Ducey’s executive order.
Jeff Plyler, owner of Jeff’s Auto Clinic on A Avenue, has a sign outside his shop that reads “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Masks, No Service.”
Plyler states his goal is to continue to keep his customers and staff safe, and until he feels it’s OK to resume doing a lot of the personal touches they used to provide their customers before COVID, he is going to continue to be extra cautious.
“Without our customers we’re not here,” he said. “We’re going to continue operating just as we have been for the past year, hoping we can eventually begin offering services like giving our customers rides to where they need to go when they drop off their vehicles for service or doing our custom cleaning we used to provide. Since COVID began those were two of the things we’ve had to stop doing.”
Florencio Lopez, owner of the Gadsden Hotel, said his staff will continue to wear face coverings but if a customer comes into the hotel they will not require or even ask them to put a covering on.
“We’re not going to open the bar just yet,” Lopez said. “We’re going to get our staff back in training. What the governor did was a step in the right direction, at least for us it is. There are still Arizona labor law and CDC guidelines that we must follow. But having the restrictions lifted is a start.”
Lopez states he and his staff are staying true to their sanitization process, more so now that they were prior to COVID-19.
“We’ve been over and above what’s been required from CDC,” he said. “We continue with that process, with the mask wearing for our employees and so that we can keep our doors open during this pandemic.”
Scott Babicky, manager of the Fred Hilburn American Legion Post #11, said Gov. Ducey’s executive order had been out in the public just a few hours when he received several calls from people wanting to reserve the hall for their event. Unfortunately, he was not able to accommodate them as the hall is being renovated.
“We’ve been open for the most part and with this executive order we’re going to continue what we’re doing until we have a better idea of what’s going to come of it,” he said. “If people come in here they now have the option if they want to wear a face covering or not. We are going to ask them to maintain social distancing guidelines.”
Babicky stated the take out food sales they have every Monday, Tuesday and Friday have been what’s keeping the American Legion open.
“I see this as a good thing,” he said. “We need to start getting back to normal.”
Oscar Valenzuela, manager at the Douglas Walmart at Fifth Street, said his store will continue to ask its customers, as well as its employees, to wear face coverings when inside the store.
“We’re following the directive from our company, which is still requiring our customers face coverings; we’re basically following the CDC direction,” he said. “Lately we’ve had some customers come up to our management staff when they see someone inside the store not wearing a face covering. If we don’t see it right off the bat, they bring it to our attention. The customers seem to have gotten used to it and are now helping us enforce it.”