Yesterday, as the mayor of Bullhead City, I issued a “proclamation” requiring the wearing of face coverings at all business locations open to the public throughout Bullhead City.
This was not an easy decision to make, and I want to take a few moments to let everyone know the reasons why this action was taken. As it so happened, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, at the very same time, held a news conference where he issued new executive orders closing gyms, bars, water parks, movie theaters and delaying the re-opening of schools. So although our action was taken independently of the governor’s new order, it helps to confirm that the situation is serious enough that our actions were warranted. So let’s review where we were and where we’re headed.
As you all know, the COVID-19 virus has wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy when state governments took the lead by closing businesses to “flatten the curve.” But what many people forget is “flattening the curve” was not designed to protect individuals from the virus, it was intended to “slow the spread” so our medical community and our first responders could equip and mobilize the necessary resources to ensure that anyone who contracted the virus could receive the needed medical equipment and attention required to keep them alive.
During this whole time, little was known about this virus and the federal government didn’t have a chance to prepare a vaccine as is normally done each year prior to the flu season. Unlike previous years, this left the most vulnerable unprotected and at the mercy of a virus that was thought to be more contagious and more deadly than any we’ve ever encountered before.
As a result, in an abundance of caution, states locked the country down and ordered businesses shuttered, bringing our economy to a standstill for weeks. People were ordered to stay at home while authorities prepared protocols, hospital beds, obtained ventilators and personal protective equipment for the heroic medical staff and first line responders.
All appeared to be working fine here in Bullhead City. The numbers were low and the hospitals were prepared. With businesses struggling to survive and fearing an economic collapse, Gov. Ducey reopened Arizona businesses with prudent guidelines. The governor implored people to avoid groups, maintain social distancing, wash hands regularly, have wait staff wear masks, and stay home whenever possible. Unfortunately, some people who were isolated for weeks thought all was well, or that they were invincible, and they returned in public as if nothing had changed. As a result, Arizona’s positive COVID-19 cases are rising substantially and the governor now has allowed local governments to take the next step on their own and mandate the wearing of face masks in their jurisdictions.
Since March, Bullhead City staff and I have been in constant contact with federal, state, county, neighboring city officials, hospital administrators, and first responders — to ensure first and foremost that our medical and first responder community had the necessary resources to deal with what was coming. The state and county health directors have taken the lead in educating us and coordinating all of the agencies working together for the benefit of everyone — and we were confident that through the collective effort of all, we were prepared.
On June 17, the day Gov. Ducey allowed cities to mandate the wearing of masks, our hospitals reported that they had sufficient staff, beds, and ventilators to care for the needs of our local citizens. In addition, our county health director advised that she recommended the use of face coverings, but did not recommend mandating them as the proper course of action.
So after weighing all of the variables at that time, including our health director’s advice, along with balancing human safety, local businesses failing and financial hardship on individuals, the purpose and effectiveness of face masks, the infection numbers and the fatality rate, the enforcement problems, what adjoining jurisdictions were requiring, the people’s right to individual freedom, and the likelihood of violent confrontations by people on both sides who strongly hold their beliefs, a very difficult decision needed to be made. After weighing all of these variables, Bullhead City’s final decision primarily boiled down to the original focus and that was: Are the hospitals prepared?
So on June 19, Bullhead City issued a statement not requiring, but strongly encouraging businesses to require face masks of their patrons and some did, but unfortunately, most did not.
Since then, we have seen a significant surge in the number of reported cases. In the past week, we’ve seen more than double the amount of new cases than in the past five weeks. Last week we also heard State Health Director Dr. Cara Christ say over 1,100 patients in the metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson areas have been transferred to other hospitals throughout the state including Kingman and Lake Havasu City. The possibility that our very own hospitals could soon reach capacity is now a reality. This new information was game changing, and as such, Bullhead City is revising its previous order.
As of this morning, Bullhead City is now requiring that face coverings be worn while indoors at all businesses where the public is allowed. A formal proclamation has been issued explaining the final requirements, exceptions and particulars of this order. Go to Bullhead City’s website or Facebook page to view the proclamation in its entirety.
At this time, no formal penalties will be imposed on individuals who violate this order, but Bullhead City staff will ensure that businesses comply with this directive, and to further educate the public.
All businesses, including those restaurants providing dine-in services and alcohol, are reminded to review the governor’s guidance requirements that allowed them to re-open. Gov. Ducey made it very clear that non-compliance with these guidelines will not be tolerated, and health permits and liquor licenses may be impacted for any violations.
As the mayor of Bullhead City, no one believes in the Constitution and the freedoms that it provides more than I do. I fully recognize that the decision that was made will outrage many of you. But in my heart, I believe that the action taken will not only help save lives and prevent painful suffering from those infected, but it also may be one small step in avoiding another possible shutdown of the entire economy like we experienced before.
God bless you all, remain safe, and let’s all get through this together!
Tom Brady, Mayor
City of Bullhead City