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Was Flagstaff's closure of hair salons to stop coronavirus illegal?
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Was Flagstaff's closure of hair salons to stop coronavirus illegal?

From the A collection of the Daily Sun's coronavirus coverage series
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Flagstaff City Hall

Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans’s decision to close additional business in Flagstaff on Thursday may end up landing the city in hot water.

The mayor’s proclamation, which closed hair salons, nail salons, beauty parlors and other similar establishments all in an effort to further slow the spread of the coronavirus, may have violated an executive order made by Governor Doug Ducey on Monday.

That executive order outlined what businesses were defined as essential throughout the crisis and thus would remain open, as well as requiring all local governments to follow the state’s lead.

Among the list of businesses deemed essential within the executive order were “personal hygiene services,” which many had taken to understand as business such as hair and nail salons. If so, Evans’s proclamation closing those may have been a violation of state law.

The Arizona Daily Sun reached out to the governor’s office for a comment on the mayor’s proclamation and if they it believed the closures constituted a violation of state law but did not hear back by publication.

A spokesperson for the governor did tell the Arizona Capital Times that the law is clear that the state’s guidance supersedes other directives.

And in a statement posted on the Republican Caucus website, State Senator Vince Leach, R-Saddlebrooke, condemned the mayor’s decision.

"We've seen the action that the mayor took today. We're in the middle of an unprecedented crisis. It's important the state speak with one voice,” Leach wrote. “This action is not helpful, and it is illegal, and we plan to take this to the Arizona Attorney General to get it overturned.”

Leach added the state legislature is ready to file a complaint against the city, which could mean Flagstaff losing state shared revenues.

But in a statement to the Arizona Daily Sun, Evans disagreed that the proclamation had violated the governor’s executive order because nail and hair salons and beauty parlors were not specifically listed as personal hygiene services within the executive order or under Arizona Revised Statures.

And Evans suggested additional measures are necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the city, beyond the original set of closures. The mayor had already closed entertainment venues, bars, gyms and more, and prevented the consumption of food on a restaurant's premises.

“When I issued my original proclamation, we had no known cases in Coconino County; now we have had two deaths. I am passionate about Flagstaff and protecting the people who live here,” Evans said.

A spokesperson for the city also pointed out that the mayor’s order brought the city in line with the executive order by eliminating the end date of closures.

Just a day earlier, Mayor Evans was among five Arizona mayors who sent a letter to Ducey asserting that the definitions of essential business in his order were far too broad and thus counterproductive to efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In their letter, the mayors specifically pointed to payday lenders and golf courses as two examples of business considered essential by the governor’s order.

At the time, Evans said she believed Ducey’s order defining essential business did nothing to limit residents’ exposure to the virus.

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