An Arizona state lawmaker is pushing a bill that would make it optional for businesses to enforce state or local Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) mask mandates.
House Bill 2770 was introduced by newly-elected Republican Rep. Joseph Chaplik of the Arizona House of Representatives’ 23rd District. This bill would protect people’s “freedom and liberties,” he said during an interview with a Tucson radio show.
“Businesses get to make the choice if they want to enforce it or not,” said Chaplik. “We shouldn’t have to force it on everyone.”
Chaplik’s one-page bill amends Title 44 of the Arizona Revised Statutes by adding a 38th chapter to the statutes. The full text of this new Chapter 38, titled “Businesses Exempt From Mask Mandate,” is as follows:
“Article 1. General Provisions: Notwithstanding any other law, a business in this state is not required to enforce on its premises a mask mandate that is established by this state, a city, town or county or any other jurisdiction of this state.”
This proposal directly undermines the executive orders signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey requiring certain businesses like restaurants and gyms to mandate mask use indoors. Not only that, but it would also undermine city and county mask mandates as well.
At 2 p.m. local time on Tuesday, Feb. 16, Chaplik’s bill was presented to the House of Representatives’ Commerce Committee.
“Since introducing HB 2770, I’ve heard from countless people who feel like their liberties are being stolen and being ordered to cover up their faces even when they are healthy,” said Chaplik in a statement. “Worse yet, business owners have been thrust into the unwanted role of ‘mask police’ on their customers, something creating heated confrontations.”
The bill, which Chaplik claims has 21 co-sponsors (out of 31 GOP members in the House), was easily approved by the Commerce Committee by a vote of six for and four against, with all 10 members of the committee voting along partisan lines.
The next step for the bill is to be forwarded to the House for a full vote. The Republicans hold a slim majority, so unless several members vote against the party’s wishes it is expected to pass without much hassle.
“We can’t be flippant with these types of bills,” said Robin Reed, chief executive of the Black Chamber of Arizona. He is critical of the bill because, according to him, COVID-19 cases in the state increased after the state rolled back certain lockdown restrictions. He fears making masks optional could have the same effect. (Related: Analysis shows mask mandates do NOT curb surge in coronavirus cases.)
“We owe our citizens to research what would happen if these mask mandates weren’t in place.”
Multiple health care organizations have come out against HB 2770, including the Arizona Medical Association and the Arizona chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. The League of Arizona Cities and Towns has also made its opposition to the bill clear.
The Arizona Medical Association, with the help of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and several other business groups, has similarly made it clear that it supports mask-wearing and other coronavirus lockdown protocols that they believe help businesses continue operating while keeping customers and employees safe.
They even launched a website that offered businesses guides for how to safely operate, with the first step to require face coverings at all times.
The medical association and the Chamber of Commerce sent a joint letter to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors back in September urging it not to rescind its countywide mask mandate after the board faced pressure from county residents to roll back the order.
“Safety is key to ensuring employees can work, children and young adults can learn, businesses and healthcare providers can operate and our economy can continue to thrive,” said the letter.
While the chamber has so far refused to take a position on Chaplik’s bill, it reiterated its support for mask-wearing, with Executive Vice President Garrick Taylor saying it “is the right thing to do.”
“We know that the vast majority of businesses are doing their very best to curb the spread of the virus in an extremely challenging business environment,” he added.
Arizona House Democrats have also voiced their opposition to the bill.
“Ridiculous,” they said. “Persistently maskless GOP Rep. Joseph Chaplik’s HB 2770 to prevent cities from imposing mask mandates during a pandemic passes on party lines in House Commerce Committee. In other news, COVID-19 deaths will top 15,000 before this week ends.”
Chaplik has, on multiple occasions, talked about how masks should not be forced on people and how businesses should not be put in the difficult position of being given the responsibility of policing their customers.
He said that he’s talked to multiple business owners and employees and heard that many are tired of wearing their masks, no longer believed masks were useful or did not want to force others to wear one.
Learn more about how Republicans and other organizations are fighting back against coronavirus lockdowns and mask mandates by reading the latest articles at Pandemic.news.