Scottsdale has unmasked, potentially putting the city at risk for increased cases of COVID-19 during a critical time.
Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane removed the mask mandate for the city on Sept. 21. The following day, Scottsdale City Council requested a work study session item where staff provides information to the council on what requirements are in place at the state and county levels, what is covered and provide additional data to make council qualified to answer questions from residents, according to a city staff report.
The study session is scheduled to take place 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6, in a virtual format available for viewing at ScottsdaleAZ.gov.
Following Mayor Lane’s resending the mask mandate, Sen. Lela Alston (D) of District 24 in the Phoenix and south Scottsdale area outlined why this is a bad idea for the community.
This time of the year could bring many uncertainties with kids starting to go back to school and flu season on the rise, said Sen. Alston.
While the Scottsdale mandate to wear masks in public has been removed, the Maricopa County order still stands. Even though he decided to act independently of the county, Mayor Lane still called for individuals to take extra caution in Scottsdale.
According to the Scottsdale Office of Communication, the mayor said, “It remains the civic responsibility of each person to continue protecting others and themselves.”
These responsibilities, according to Mayor Lane, include limiting contact with others, maintaining good hygiene, and even wearing masks.
Mayor Lane said when the original order original was set in place, “The alarming growth in cases across the county was pushing hospital capacity to the limit, and Scottsdale’s mask requirement was part of efforts in communities across the state to get that situation under control. It worked.”
Many residents were enraged that the masks, which experts say have helped mitigate the damage, are no longer being required.
Sen. Alston expressed her concerns because health officials are pushing people to wear masks.
“We’re seeing that more than ever people are being cautioned that people need to wear masks, so I am disappointed,” said Sen. Alston.
She commended the mayor for firmly enforcing social distancing early on by holding Arizona bars accountable for their actions immediately after the mandate was removed. She said she was proud of him for being “a really strong advocate for community health.” With this in mind, she expected more from him this time around.
As a board member of the Phoenix Union High School, Sen. Alston emphasized how critical it is to keep children’s health in mind as many students will be returning to school.
The Phoenix Union board has decided not to send kids back to in-person classes until January, according to published news reports. Sen. Alston said that everyone is eager to have kids back in school.
“But at what consequence?” she asked.
Sen. Alston continued, “We at Phoenix Union have decided safety has got to come first. It just does.”
The Scottsdale Unified School District has decided on a plan to bring kids back to school in-person in different phases.
Sen. Alston said, “They’re already opening some of their schools, and so unmasking is even more concerning about the school population.”
The other impending issue that Sen. Alston addressed was the unknown effects of the flu season in combination with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We could get a double whammy,” she said.
Sen. Alston continued, “Having those two things happening together — and it’s going to happen together — we just want to cut our losses as much as we can.”
Even though Maricopa County still has a mask mandate, the county lacks the officers that the city has to enforce it, said Sen. Alston. She urges people to follow it regardless.
Editor's Note: Tess Keiser is a student reporter at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.