On June 17, Governor Doug Ducey gave local leaders throughout Arizona the authority to require face masks in public, which led several cities throughout the state, including Phoenix, to immediately implement a mask mandate.
The order followed a record-breaking week of positive coronavirus cases in Arizona, which now has one of the largest cases per capita in the country.
What exactly does a rule requiring face masks entail and what can happen if you don’t follow it? Jonathan Frutkin, principal at Radix Law, a boutique law firm that works with business owners in the Valley, says it depends on who you are and where you live.
“First of all, there’s been an incredibly fast-moving legal and regulatory landscape with how things work,” he says.
Typically, a company can’t test its employees for diseases. The rules have since changed amid the coronavirus pandemic. Recently, the United States Department of Labor had to weigh in whether or not a business could tell a high-risk employee not to come back to work or how to accommodate someone who is scared of getting the virus.
People are required to wear a mask in most public places throughout Arizona, but the exact rule and the consequences if you don’t abide by it vary from city to city. In Phoenix and Surprise, it’s a $250 fine after a warning. In Tempe and Scottsdale, it’s a misdemeanor, which means a $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail.
“The safe legal advice is just to make sure you know where you are and follow the rule,” Frutkin says.
He adds that as long as you are “out and about” in the community or inside a place of “public accommodation” (i.e. a supermarket, drug store or gas station), you need to wear a mask. Officials have made exceptions for when wearing a face covering is not practical, such as while eating, exercising or visiting the dentist.
“You do not need to wear it in your home. You do not need to wear it in your office if it’s not generally open to the public,” Frutkin says. “You do need to wear it where other people are.”
There is also an exception for people with disabilities or health concerns that make wearing a mask difficult or impossible. Children under the age of 2 are also not required to wear a face mask.
“People who have medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask, being able to breathe, they do not need to wear them,” Frutkin says.
He recommends that people who cannot wear a mask get a doctor’s note to reflect their condition to avoid conflict if they’re stopped by a police officer.
How long can we expect the law to be in effect? That differs depending on the city, as well, Frutkin says.
“The county said, ‘Until further notice,’” he says. “Some cities said, ‘We’ll decide again in a month.’”
Maricopa County Sherriff’s Department and local police departments are responsible for enforcing the mandate. In Scottsdale, however, some businesses are being called to enforce it and even offer disposable masks to clients and customers.
“I think that will be kind of the norm for the next few months,” Frutkin says.