Council Mandates Masks and Fines

In an historic era never before seen in Arizona, the Phoenix City Council today voted 7-2 to pass an ordinance requiring all individuals to wear masks outside their homes, or face $250 penalties.

“Public health professionals tell us that there are steps we can take to prevent the spread,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.

The Mayor referred to unspecified reports from unnamed medical experts and authors, who report the numbers in Arizona have risen dramatically.

The Council did not acknowledge that the number of tests available in Arizona have also increased exponentially.

Several members of the public who spoke out against the new law referred to specific contradictions in mainstream news media, as well as contradiction among American scientific journals and agencies.

These included the New England Journal of Medicine, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Anthony Fauci, M.D., advisor to the U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Council did not specifically address any contradictions about the use of masks raised by the public.

As with previous orders by Phoenix and The State of Arizona, there is a labyrinth of exceptions that individuals can cite – be they truthful or not – which may excuse disobedience, but will require police officers to act as street judges.

These exceptions ranged from individuals practicing exercising outdoors to exercising freedom of religious beliefs.

There is also a provision that allows people to eat without masks in restaurants.

District 1 Councilwoman Thelda Williams asked Police Chief Jerri Williams (no relation) if officers will “take people at their word.”

“We’re going to take it at face value,” the Chief said.

According to the City Attorney’s Staff, children under age 6, and those staying 6 feet away from each other would not be required to wear masks.

Most members of the public who spoke at the meeting, including an Arcadia area doctor who fears masks are making people sick, opposed the measure.

“I do believe masks should be worn indoors in crowded places and by those who are imuno-surpressed (…)” said Jane Hendricks M.D.  “The individual who is taking care of themselves should not have to suffer.”

Dr. Hendricks pointed out that every single one of the Councilmembers touched their faces during the meeting.

“This is my nose and my mouth,” said Gus Cha, a teacher in Phoenix.  “Who do you think you are?”

Cha told the Council that his pregnant wife refused to wear a mask.

“Masks are a medical precaution, you are not my doctor or my family’s doctor,” he said. “I do not recognize your authority to mandate a treatment to the general public of Phoenix. This is an overstep of your authority in the name of a declaration of emergency.”

All but three of those who spoke in favor of the measure either represented medical associations, or businesses who were already under threat of shutdown.

This included a representative of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

Mayor Gallego pointed out that just under twice as many people submitted written comments in favor of the new law than were against.

City Attorney Staff stated that citations could be argued in Phoenix Municipal Court and ultimate discretion would be up to City judges, who are also City employees.

There was no discussion if the citations could be appealed to higher courts, but several council members asked if the City would be keeping records of those who were cited, or contacted by police.

While several Council Members said the citations would be “non-criminal,” there was question over whether or not resulting misdemeanor records could be used against citizens in employment or other areas of their lives.

According to Arizona law (prior to COVID19 shutdowns) all police records for non-open investigations were technically public record.

More than one of the Council Members and Staff compared the now crime of “not wearing a mask” to “failing to stop at a stop sign.”

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams refused to agree with Councilman Jim Warring that the failure to wear a mask is “in the same category” as a traffic stop.

The Chief clarified that the new law is a civil ordinance whereas the latter is a state law.

What The Chief did not point out directly is that every individual can see stop signs and other vehicles coming, but no one can see a microscopic virus.

No one in the City Government pointed out that a probability is not a fact, nor did they mention any burden of evidence for proving that a person cited under the new law was in fact, infected.

The Chief did clarify that she would prefer no one be cited unless a lieutenant is present.

Councilmen Warring and DiCicio repeatedly questioned City Staff if using the police to enforce this measure was realistic, or Constitutionally appropriate, as did several speakers who passionately objected to the infringement of personal freedoms.

“Individuals are already trying to shame each other,” Said District 6 Concilman Sal DiCicio. “This is a really bad time be using our police department for this.”

DiCicio said he did not believe masks would eliminate the virus, which he said would not happen unless the majority of the population was vaccinated, people developed imunitties over time, or the virus disappears on its own.

” Under all these circumstances, we are going to be living with this virus for a very long time,” He said. “We have to learn how to manage it. Where is there a timeline?”

There was no clear answer on when the mandate would end, or if it would continue indefinitely according to the official numbers, which the Council did not discuss.

Several Councilmembers did asked how the police will enforce the mandate.

“I will vote yes to this with the understanding that we will not be using 911 to have people complain on their neighbors and in the stores,” District 7 Councilman Michael Nowakowski said. “I think we need to figure out another way to educate people.”

The Council urged that they intend for police to use the law as a tool to educate the public, but that officers will have the power to stop people and interrogate them.

“911 is not an appropriate call for this type of issue,” said City Manager Ed Zeurcher.  

Neither the Chief nor the Council definitively answered either Councilman Sal DiCicio nor Warring if officers will be able to use the tool to check for existing arrest warrants.

Public commentator Steven Daniels called the measure “wholly inappropriate.”

“To try to mandate that everyone has to do this for the common good is literally a Marxist communist idea,” Daniels said. “This is nothing more than social control to pit people against people and businesses against people.”

Daniels then read an excerpt he said was from the New England Medical Journal concluding that masks are “a reflexive reaction to the anxiety of COVID19.

Several speakers in favor of the measure, including several representing the medical community, said that masks are not a political issue, but a public health issue.

Dr. Saskia Popescu is an infection preventionist and epidemiologist, who also teaches at the University of Arizona. “Pushing the narrative of a false dichotomy between public health and the economy is irresponsible and frankly ignorant.”

Popescu said the medical community is seeing a surge in urgent care cases from sick people not properly isolating themselves.

She supported the measure.

“The time to act is now,” she said.

Laura Carpenter is a pharmacist in District 4.

“I strongly support this measure,” she said. “The cost of covering your nose and mouth is nominal, while the cost of not wearing a mask is high.”

Ms. Carpenter did not address personal freedom, nor concerns raised that long-term mask use can cause discomfort, ear infections, difficulty breathing, or other bacterial complications.

No one at the meeting discussed centuries-old medical ethics which prevent patients from treatments being forced upon them against their well.

“There is a lot of science denial going on here,” said Anthony Dunnigan. “Wearing a mask is not a political choice, it’s a public health choice.”

The Council – politicians – then voted to pass the law which prohibited the legal choice to not wear a mask.

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VOTE COUNT:

Gallego (Mayor): Yes

DiCicio: No

Garcia: Yes

Nowakowski: Yes

Pastor: Yes

Warring: No

Williams: Yes

Gallardo: Yes

* DISCLOSURE NOTE: ThisMelroseLife Publisher Brian Mori is a bilingual Arizona Realtor, educator, and journalist who has worked in Arizona’s courts, schools, hospitals, bars, restaurants, offices, and even news rooms. Mori has also worked abroad as a teacher. HE ADAMANTLY OPPOSES this legislation, and spoke out against he measure today.