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COVID dominates upcoming Pima Supervisors meeting

Return to public mask mandates to be considered
Posted at 6:58 PM, Sep 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-06 21:58:46-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Coping with COVID is still the top priority for most local governments. The topic dominates this week’s agenda for Pima County Supervisors.

Just as COVID issues are splitting the public they’re splitting Pima County’s Board of Supervisors. District 4 Supervisor Steve Christy has been a consistent opponent of mask mandates. He’s against a proposal on the agenda to bring back mask mandates indoors---for times when you can’t stay six feet from others.

“It's not something that we want as a community. The community is tired of having to be mandated with these face masks.”

Supervisor Christy is skeptical about whether masks offer protection but District 2 Supervisor Doctor Matt Heinz says masks have protected him and other health workers as they treat COVID patients. He says if the county reinstates a mask mandate it would extend to school districts in Pima County that do not require masks now.

“So I think it makes a lot of sense to go back to where we were given the numbers like the case numbers the numbers of hospitalizations that we're seeing, and the overall increasing the spike the surgery and right now it makes a lot of sense to go back to that policy which we saw implemented so successfully a few months back.”

Supervisors are set to consider Heinz's proposal to require vaccinations for all healthcare workers. Vaccine mandates from UMC and TMC have led to protests at those hospitals. Heinz says health workers who won’t vaccinate to reduce the chance of spreading COVID should not be health workers.

Christy says even health workers should have freedom of choice.

If Pima County enacts any mask mandates or vaccinations, they could collide with an executive order from Governor Doug Ducey, and a state law prohibiting such requirements. Supervisors have scheduled time to confer with their lawyer about that.

Supervisors will also consider spending up to $2 million to use a motel as a quarantine shelter for border crossers seeking asylum in the U.S. The Red Roof Inn at 3704 E. Irvington is planned for use by asylum seekers who have tested positive for COVID. If approved, the agreement would last up to six months.

Christy sees the plan as confirming his concern asylum seekers could add to community spread. Heinz says it makes sense to have a quarantine location but asylum seekers are no greater threat than many other groups.

Supervisors will also consider a proposal to reduce rental evictions. Now that the Federal eviction moratorium has ended, tenants who are behind on their rent could become homeless. Officials say that could put them in living conditions that could help COVID spread. Supervisors will consider using COVID relief funds to pay landlords up to five thousand dollars to compensate for lost rent in return for agreements not to remove tenants at risk of eviction.