In a photo posted to his Facebook page at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Mayor Arturo Garino signs a proclamation making face mask use mandatory in the city as City Clerk Leticia Robinson looks on.

City and county officials moved to require the use of face masks in public after Gov. Doug Ducey announced on Wednesday that he would allow Arizona’s local governments to impose their own mandatory mask rules and decide how to enforce them.

Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino, who had sent a letter to Ducey on Monday asking for the authority to require face masks in the city to help stem the spread of COVID-19, posted to his Facebook page at 4:30 p.m. Thursday that he had just signed a proclamation mandating that residents wear face coverings in public, effective immediately.

Garino did not immediately return calls seeking comment, but according to a copy of the proclamation provided by the city clerk, the rule will apply to public indoor spaces if other people are present, and public outdoor spaces if another person is within six feet.

People in public areas of a business or government building, or who are waiting in line, must also wear a mask.

Violations will initially be met with a notification that face coverings are mandatory and law enforcement should provide further information, according to the proclamation, but refusal to comply will be considered a Class 3 misdemeanor.

The proclamation also lists a few situations in which face coverings aren’t required: at home; when alone in a vehicle or only with other residents of the same household; when eating; when exercising outdoors alone or with residents of the same household; when swimming; or at workspaces in which a single person works alone with a closed door.

The mayor’s assistant also sent out a letter for distribution to local businesses notifying them of the proclamation and requesting their support in enforcing face mask use.

County Supervisor Bruce Bracker, who had signed a June 13 letter from the Arizona Border Counties Coalition that also asked the governor for local control over mask regulations, said on Wednesday that: “We’re extremely appreciative that the governor has made this announcement, but we’re still looking for the guidance behind (it).”

Speaking on Thursday, Bracker said the county was “trying to work out a couple details,” but expected to have a proclamation ready by the end of the week.

Troubling trends

The mask-use developments came as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continued to rise sharply in Santa Cruz County, reaching 1,249 by Thursday morning, according to statistics posted by the County Health Services Department.

Meanwhile, the number of local people who have died from the disease grew to 12 according to the county, and 13 according to state statistics released Thursday.

Just two-and-a-half weeks earlier, on June 1, the county reported the first coronavirus-related death of a local resident and counted 326 confirmed infections in the community. That means there had been 923 new cases detected since the start of the month.

Of the 12 deaths reported by the county, nine were people 65 or older and three were between the ages of 45 and 64.

Thursday’s data from the County Health Services Department also showed 63 hospitalizations of local residents, an increase of 24 since the department first began reporting its own hospitalization numbers on June 10.

The 1,249 confirmed infections as of Thursday, compared with the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 population estimate for the county of 46,498, means that 2.7 percent of Santa Cruz County residents had tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic – one in every 37 people.

That’s comparable to the infection rates in Apache and Navajo counties, which have typically had the highest per-capita case rates among Arizona’s 15 counties.

However, Santa Cruz has a significantly higher positive rate on the test that detects active COVID-19 infections than the state’s other counties, indicating a far-reaching community spread.

State data released Thursday showed that 27.7 percent of Santa Cruz County residents who took the test got a positive result. Navajo had the second-highest positive test rate at 16.4 percent, followed by Yuma (15.7 percent) and Apache (13.8 percent).

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