As of June 1, residents will no longer be required to don masks within Coconino County, whether they are inside or not.
The news comes after the Coconino County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to rescind the county’s mask mandate during their regular Tuesday meeting.
The county’s mandate that members of the public wear masks indoors or if social distancing is not possible has been in place since June of last year.
The rule change impacts only unincorporated areas of the county. Any mask mandates passed by cities, towns and tribal governments may still be enforced.
Likewise, private businesses still have the ability to require masks on their premises. And the county continues to encourage residents who are not vaccinated to wear masks when indoors.
County Manager Steve Peru told the board during the Tuesday meeting that the change comes as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control regarding the wearing of masks has also changed in recent weeks.
“Coconino County has always followed CDC guidance. There’s a lot that goes into formalizing the guidance at that level. Science and experts in the field have provided important guidance throughout the pandemic, and so when the change was recently made regarding mask requirements, I think we will all admit we were a little taken aback by the change in direction so quickly,” Peru said. “But at the same time, as we have always done from the very beginning, we are following CDC guidelines.”
Coconino County Health and Human Services Director Kim Musselman said that despite the change, the county supported residents who might personally decide to continue wearing a mask. Musselman said come the cold and flu season, she, too, may decide to again start wearing a mask more regularly.
In a statement, Musselman also pointed to recent trends in the number of COVID-19 cases as a reason to rescind the mask mandate.
“COVID-19 cases have fallen to the lowest numbers since the beginning of the pandemic, the vaccine is readily available, and our vaccination rates rise daily,” Musselman said.
Still, Peru said while the end of the mask mandate marks a milestone for the county, he cautioned that the county will continue its efforts to address the pandemic and is committed to public health.
Peru said he wanted to reassure the professionals who have been in the fight against COVID19 for over a year that the county was still very much in the game.
“The public health emergency continues and that’s an important piece to say. We’re not saying that the public health declaration is over, were just saying we're [entering a new phase] as a result of guidance and numbers,” Peru said.
Coconino County will no longer require vaccinated individuals to wear a mask in county buildings beginning June 1.
The board also discussed entering into Phase 3 of the county’s reentry plan. It appears it will be moving through Phase 3 throughout June.
The county in moving to that stage will begin to reopen buildings to the public, and it will begin the process of transitioning employees back to working in offices.
County buildings could then fully reopen by July 1.
For county employees, the wearing of masks will be optional but encouraged.
Coconino County Health and Human Services recommends that all eligible individuals receive their COVID-19 vaccine. For information on testing and vaccination locations in Coconino County, visit coconino.az.gov/covid19vaccine.
Adrian Skabelund can be reached by phone at (928) 556-2261, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @AdrianSkabelund.