PHOENIX — Arizona businesses are no longer required to mandate face masks or social distancing after Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order lifting all COVID-19 safety measures.
The move came just one day after Ducey received his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the University of Arizona.
The measure states that COVID-19 requirements on business are now recommendations, meaning that it’s now up to each individual business if they want to require masks inside their establishments or set social distancing rules.
Cities or counties will only be able to enforce mask wearing in government buildings and on public transportation. Uber and Lyft also require drivers and passengers to wear a mask.
Events with more than 50 people, like sporting events or concerts, will no longer need approval from local governments to take place.
The executive order also allows bars and nightclubs to fully open their doors without restrictions.
The governor lifted restrictions, citing a drop in COVID-19 cases and mass distribution of coronavirus vaccines but is still encouraging Arizona residents and businesses to act responsibly.
“Practice the fundamentals. Wear a mask, practice physical distancing, stay home when sick, wash your hands frequently and roll up you’re sleeve and get the vaccine – it’s safe, effective and free,” Ducey wrote in a Twitter thread.
Representatives from Safeway, Albertsons, Basha’s, Food City and AJ’s Fine Food stores in Arizona said they are not making any changes to the current in-store safety and sanitation protocols, saying they will continue to follow CDC and local health official recommendations.
Small grocery stores like Carnicería Mi Ranchito near 43rd and Southern avenues said they will also follow CDC recommendations.
Right before a customer enters the premises, two signs in English and Spanish urge customers to wear their masks while inside, bilingual notes that store manager Luis Carlos says will stay up even after Ducey’s executive order.
“It would be awesome if people still just brought [their masks] by themselves and not have me parent them, reminding them what to do,” said Carlos.
Bars and clubs in the Valley will each respond to the executive order differently, as well.
Sazerac in downtown Phoenix plans to stay at limited capacity and social distance, but will make masks optional.
“It’s going to take a little bit for all of us in this industry to navigate the waters to see what’s going to work what’s not get the reaction from the public," says owner Anthony Hugger.
Around the block, at The Golden Margarita, masks will also be optional. But some things, like social distancing and temperature checks, will stay.
“It’s very exciting news. It’s a very good step forward,” says owner Gem Ray.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said she was disappointed in Ducey’s decision to lift all COVID-19 protocols, adding that she found out about the measure on social media.
“I’m concerned that politics played a role in this process,” Gallego said. “I’ve spoken to the health care leaders who have been great partners of the governor during COVID-19, they also did not know this was coming.”
The Phoenix mayor also said that the 2020 summer coronavirus surge was “only curbed by masking—when the governor finally allowed cities to” implement local mandates, adding “to abandon precautions now is like spiking the ball on the 5-yard line.”
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said she also opposed the governor’s measure.
In a statement, she said, “I have no intention of removing our local mask-wearing requirement,” adding “our city attorney has advised me that we have clear local authority to continue implementing our city mask mandate.”
State School Superintendent Kathy Hoffman said masks are still required in all K-12 schools.
Although businesses can refuse service, they are hopeful their customers will still mask up if they are asked.
“I still see people with masks on, so that’s reassuring that things will be OK,” Carlos said.
So far, only 17% of Arizonans have been fully vaccinated, 27% have received their first shot. Nowhere near the 70% required to reach herd immunity.
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