Queen Creek prohibits COVID mask, vaccine mandates with new ordinance Maritza Dominguez
Arizona Republic Queen Creek is scrapping COVID-19 mandates. The Town Council unanimously approved a new policy on Wednesday that makes masks, COVID-19 vaccines and business closures “an individual personal responsibility" rather than a government decree. Mayor Julia Wheatly said on Wednesday the policy was to give “our residents and our employees assurance,” the town would not create mandates. Wheatly and Councilmember Leah Martineau requested the town staff create the resolution. “It is each person's individual duty to protect themselves, their families and the community,” the policy states. It’s the council’s belief that “those are personal decisions that do not require government mandates.” The policy also restricts curfew restrictions related to COVID-19 mitigation actions.
With this policy in place, town employees “will not be compelled to wear mask or be vaccinated to keep their jobs.” The ordinance specifically identifies that COVID-19 vaccines will not be required or could be mandated. Councilmember Travis Padilla said, “This is a loud and clear message we are sending that it is important for our town to make a statement that says whathappenedn in the past is not going to happen in the future.” He said he hopes this will spark other municipalities to pass similar resolutions and that he is proud the town is taking the lead on it.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the town was one of the municipalities throughout the metro Phoenix not take action on mask mandates. Three years have passed since the global pandemic was declared. More than 33,000 Arizonans died in that timeframe and current data shows a new variant is spreading. Within Queen Creek's area, 70 COVID-19 cases were reported within the last month, according to data from the Arizona Department of Heath Services. The state reported that eight people died from COVID-19 symptoms this week. It's n ot clear if any were in Queen Creek. EG.5, nicknamed "Eris, does not seem to pose a threat to public health, according to previous reporting from the Arizona Republic. However, the strain is being closely monitored by the healthcare community.
Queen Creek’s inaction in 2020 was enough to show its stance on COVID-19 mitigation policies, but the council wanted to solidify its belief with the new policy, Vice Mayor Jeff Brown said on Wednesday.