Invoice would permit Arizona companies to disregard masks mandates
A House committee has passed Republican-sponsored bill to allow Arizona business owners to decide whether to enforce mask mandates for employees and customers.
“It’s a simple calculation – it restores the freedom and freedoms of individuals and individuals who own a business to make their own decisions,” said Joseph Chaplik, newly elected MP of Scottsdale, a sponsor of House Bill 2770.
READ MORE: To Mask Or Not To Mask? That’s what experts say
The House Commerce Committee voted 6-4 on Tuesday, along the lines of party politics, for the bill that runs counter to many of the city and county government’s mask mandates to combat the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Governor Doug Ducey did not make a nationwide mask requirement mandatory, but last year allowed local governments to set such rules.
Chaplik, speaking with a face shield, referred to support emails he had received.
“Everything can be made into a mask, so it’s not about security, but about compliance,” one read.
“Private companies should be free to make their own health protocols,” another said. He said that most of the emails he received supported the bill and he did not read any opposition emails.
Chaplik’s Republicans did not say their “yes” votes, but the Democrats spoke up.
“We wear our masks, we try to be safe and I genuinely oppose this bill being presented today,” said Rep. Charlene Fernandez of Yuma.
Phoenix Rep. Robert Meza gave a personal reason.
“I let two cousins die, one in 53 and one in 70, from COVID,” he said. “And with that I will vote ‘no’. ”
Several organizations, including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Medical Association, promote the wearing of masks, as do most Arizona companies. However, some entrepreneurs facing government-mandated temporary shutdowns and limited traffic during a nearly year-long pandemic that decimated small businesses and the U.S. economy are pushing against restrictions.
Chaplik suggested HB 2770 in early February when new cases of COVID-19 began to fall after months of escalating. The vaccinations are also increasing every day. 1.15 million Arizonans are now vaccinated on at least their first dose, but thousands are still waiting to have their turn.
Health experts warn that guidelines must continue to be followed for the safety of all, including wearing masks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even those who have been vaccinated can still be contagious, and it is important to continue to take safety precautions until there is more knowledge about the vaccines.
The CDC recently updated their mask guide to include information on the correct “double mask,” as new research suggests that having two masks provides better protection against the disease.
In the absence of a statewide mask mandate, several cities in Arizona have full mask mandates, including those in the state’s most populous counties, Maricopa and Pima. In Tempe, police are hoping to work with the community and local businesses to enforce the wearing of masks.
Since the pandemic began changing daily life in Arizona nearly a year ago, some companies and customers have resisted instructions on how to wear masks or operate. While some owners claim they act in principle, others need defiance to stay in business.
According to the Republic of Arizona, more than 3,500 complaints have been filed with the Phoenix Subway Police and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office about non-compliant businesses. Yet fewer than 75 companies were cited or referred to.
Chaplik’s campaign website states, “While COVID was a source of great uncertainty early on, much more is known today and it is time to put Arizona on the road to recovery.”
In an interview with Garret Lewis of KNST-AM on Tuesday before the committee vote, Chaplik said the bill “takes law enforcement out of private companies” and “restores the freedom and freedom for individuals to make their own decisions.”
Chaplik said he is not against people who choose to wear a mask, but the government should not “force everyone, including the healthy, to wear the mask”. Masks, he claimed, embarrassed and dehumanized people and caused depression.
The CDC has cited numerous reports suggesting the effectiveness of masks, particularly N95 masks, in fighting the coronavirus. It is said that more research is needed into how fabric masks work in relation to materials, layers, and other factors.
The measure still has to pass several votes in the legislature.
Victoria Hill Story, Cronkite News