The Pima County Board of Supervisors at a special meeting May 19 voted 3-2 to revise rules for protective measures some businesses should follow during a pandemic. The changes came after extensive feedback from the business community, primarily restaurants, which sought the bulk of the changes.
The revisions provide better clarity for some of the rules, made others easier to implement and removed a few after hearing from business owners and managers that they were impractical. The revised rules go into effect immediately.
“The goal of this is to protect the public health. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Though Governor Ducey has relaxed restrictions for business operations, the County, which is charged with protecting the public health, needs to provide guidance and direction about how to get back to business safely for everyone – business owners, their employees and their patrons,” said County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. “CDC and state guidance to reopening businesses to ‘practice social distancing’ aren’t nearly specific enough to have any real, practical effect and would vary greatly from establishment to establishment based on each owner’s interpretation of that phrase. This action by the Board provides clarity, fairness and consistency.”
The County in April, anticipating the eventual end to shelter-in-place requirements, gathered more than 120 members of the business community and other employers, along with public health experts, to begin crafting a plan for getting Back to Business safely as the pandemic continued.
When Gov. Ducey accelerated the pace of reopening, the County accelerated the pace of the Back to Business process, quickly adopting guidance so that the new rules would be in effect on or before the governor’s Stay At Home orders expired.
“It was always our intention to revise these as necessary and as we received feedback from the affected industries. We have revised them four times over the past week. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requires us to make sure we’re not letting perfect be the enemy of the good,” Huckelberry said.
As part of the Back to Business discussions, it was decided that, where appropriate, the protective measures for reopening should be enforceable rules via the Health Department’s statutory authority to protect public health. Without an inspection or regulatory review process, the guidelines can be ignored or discarded at will, which would be counter to the County’s charge by state law to defend the public from communicable and infectious diseases.
“The County Health Department has rules and codes for the maintenance of sanitary and healthy conditions at businesses that have the potential for the transmission of communicable and infectious diseases. We inspect businesses to protect the public from illnesses like salmonella and e-coli. We work cooperatively with the restaurant, fitness and lodging industries to create consumer confidence in the places consumers dine, swim and stay. Similarly, the Health Department wants businesses to adhere to these temporary protective measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and to let the public know that the county and the business community are working together to keep them safe,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, the County’s Chief Medical Officer and Deputy County Administrator.
With that in mind, the initial draft of the rules, though emphasizing education, included a financial penalty for consistently failing to follow the temporary rules. On Thursday, the Board eliminated the cash penalty. Instead, restaurants that consistently fail to follow the rules will be listed on the County’s website.
However, the County will also reward businesses that follow the guidelines with a badge that can be placed at their entrances that identifies the business as one that is following the County’s protective public health measures. And their business names also will be posted on the internet as having received the badge and letting the public know their establishments are working with the Health Department to slow or prevent the spread of the coronavirus.