Greenlee County to require masks in public places county-wide

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Volunteer Patricia Avila hands masks through vehicle windows at a previous event. On Tuesday, the Greenlee County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution requiring the wearing of masks while in public for all of Greenlee County.

Resolution goes into effect at 12 a.m., Wednesday, July 1

By Walt Mares

DUNCAN – The Greenlee County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution Tuesday, requiring anyone who enters a public place to wear a protective face mask. The measure was passed to deal with the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The measure was passed after much discussion and deliberation at the board’s June 30 meeting.  The resolution goes into effect as of 12 a.m. on Wednesday, July 1.

The vote was 2-1 with supervisors David Gomez, District 1-Clifton and Ron Campbell, District 2-Morenci, voting in the affirmative. Richard Lunt, District 3-Duncan, voted in the negative saying he did not want to impose on the recent town of Duncan’s council vote to not require people to wear face masks in public places.

Lunt said in an interview prior to the meeting that to him the matter comes down to individual choice and freedom. “If you make good choices, that allows you to have freedom. If you make bad choices then that freedom can be lost,” he said.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: A Clifton resident wears a protective face mask stating that wearing masks works in helping prevent the potentially deadly COVID-19 of which cases in Arizona are skyrocketing. The Greenlee County Board of Supervisors on June 30 passed a proclamation mandating that all persons in Greenlee wear a face mask when they are in public places, such as stores and other facilities. The mandate went into effect at 12 a.m the following day.

However, approval of the county resolution includes the requirement of Duncan coming under the county-wide proclamation.

Greenlee County now joins the small number of Arizona’s 15 counties to issue such a proclamation. The number of COVID-19 cases has been exploding, resulting in the state having one of the largest increases in the entire U.S.

There were about 48 people present at the online meeting. Of those, 10 members of the public spoke or otherwise expressed their opinions.

They included Greenlee County Sheriff Tim Sumner and candidate for Greenlee County Sheriff Eric Ellison, as well as Duncan supervisor candidate Suzanne Menges. They all spoke against the resolution. Though not aligned, the basic premise of Ellison and Sumner was that the resolution involves the government being too far-reaching, and they stressed the need for people to take personal responsibility and have choices. Sumner expressed concerns regarding how the resolution could be enforced.

To some, that raises the question of whether the law is not enforced, especially willingly, will that constitute dereliction of duty.

Four people voiced their strong support for the resolution. They include Morenci residents Teresa Campbell and Amanda Gray.

Campbell gave an impassioned account of observing her sister’s experience with the potentially deadly virus. She said, “Before my sister got sick, I was like others, thinking it was akin to the flu. Now I see how aggressive and long-lasting the effects can be. We have to do everything we can to defeat this monster.” 

Teresa is the wife of Supervisor Ron Campbell.

Gray, who is a Physician’s Assistant with the Gila Health Resources and co-creator of the “Mask up, Greenlee!” program which has given away thousands of homemade masks, noted that the official numbers make it seem that Greenlee is doing much better than it is.

She pointed out that people who have a permanent address in another county or state get counted for that address when they test positive, even if they live here temporarily. That includes many employees at the Freeport McMoRan copper mine in Morenci whose homes are outside Greenlee. Some workers who live in Tucson, or in that area, commute to Morenci for workdays and return home on their days off. Tucson is Arizona’s second-largest city and COVID-19 case numbers have been rapidly climbing there.

Gray implored all residents to take the virus seriously. 

There will be exemptions from wearing face-coverings for people who have medical and mental health issues for whom it could be detrimental.

Clifton proclamation

The Clifton Town Council last week passed a proclamation requiring that all persons entering public places, such as stores, are required to wear protective face masks. That went into effect Friday, June, 26. How that will jive with the county’s proclamation is uncertain but Clifton Town Manager Rudy Perez said the town’s attorney is reviewing the town and county proclamations to ensure they are in line with each other.

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