Mohave County Supervisors lift face mask requirement for county-owned buildings
KINGMAN – When Mohave County Supervisor Gary Watson of District 1 tried to lift the face-covering mandate for the county auditorium, Supervisor Buster Johnson of District 3, who was against the idea, took the matter a step further.
“If we don’t believe there is a pandemic, let’s remove everything,” he said at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday, Oct. 29, providing a twist to the face mask saga that took even Supervisors Hildy Angius of District 2 and Ron Gould of District 5 by surprise.
The two, however, picked up the idea with delight, providing, along with Johnson, a 3-2 vote that lifted the face-coverings mandate in all county buildings, with the exception of the courts and the jail.
That was not the outcome Watson wished for when he argued that the Kingman auditorium is a spacious room that allows for social distancing and therefore an exception can be made.
Watson made his motion looking for a compromise after a townhall on face masks and a survey of county employees. Forty-eight percent of county employees who responded slightly preferred lifting the ban.
“The county, just like our society, is divided in the middle,” observed County Manager Sam Elters.
But Johnson said no air circulation studies have been made in the auditorium and the county can’t pick and choose rooms. He also said that if the board doesn’t think there’s a pandemic, he would recommend removing Plexiglass and other protections, as well.
That prompted concern from Angius, who said she supports taking COVID-19 protections, just not those that people have to “wear,” she said.
The vote came after Mohave County Public Health Director Denise Burley reported an uptick in ICU bed usage at local hospitals and an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the county.
“I don’t see that,” Angius said, adding that people with COVID-like symptoms can be infected with “anything,” like a flu.
“Our goal is to protect public health and we continue to recommend for people to wear masks,” Burley said. “We know and it’s generally accepted that masks work and their primary purpose is to protect others.”
Burley said there’s a connection between an increase of COVID-19 cases in Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City and decisions by those cities to lift mask mandates. She provided a graph to show this uptick over time.
Angius said in her opinion, the uptick was caused by a holiday weekend and the fact that both communities, unlike Kingman, are vacation destinations. Per Burley’s request, the head of each county department will be responsible for enforcing – or not – mask-wearing among their employees.