Government and business leaders in the Town of Marana are concerned about the Pima County Board of Supervisors recent 3-2 vote to implement a mandatory curfew as virus rates rise in Southern Arizona.
But Oro Valley officials say they’re not losing sleep over the county’s new restrictions as most of their residents are home in bed at that hour.
Under the new curfew guidelines, businesses within county limits are required to close their doors to customers by 10 p.m. or risk having their operational permit suspended or revoked by the Pima County Health Department. The curfew is set to stay in place until virus spread rates drop to 100 cases per 100,000 people in Pima County. Previously, supervisors decided to make the curfew voluntary for businesses, but overcrowded ICUs across the county have led officials to enact more strict measures.
Local leaders like Marana’s Mayor Ed Honea question why they were not included in the conversation that led to the county’s decision.
“Pima County doesn’t ask for our opinions or how we can do things differently. They just say they’re putting a curfew in place,” Honea said. “Those Pima County Health Department people weren’t elected by the town of Marana. The town council and I were. Have us in the conversation.”
Marana’s mayor said he felt the 10 p.m. time limit was chosen haphazardly and implemented in haste. While he acknowledges coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the county—Honea recently recovered from the virus after being diagnosed with COVID-19 in late November—he said the establishments he frequents are compliant with the county’s previous orders and questions why those business owners are now being penalized.
“A couple of places I go when I’m eating late after a council meeting or something are really trying to comply,” Honea said. “The majority of a lot of these restaurant’s sales are food, but they have a lounge and maybe a few people will have a few beers after dinner. If they’re following protocol, why are we punishing that establishment?”
A recent letter sent to Marana Town Manager Terry Rozema by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry notes county health officials observed seven Marana establishments—Top Golf, High 5 Grill, Old Father Inn, Casa Marana Craft Beer and Wine, Station, Wingstop on Ina Road and Native Grill & Wings on Courtney Page Way—were found not observing the voluntary curfew.
Honea said the county should have notified him about the noncompliant businesses before imposing a mandatory curfew. The mayor would have liked the chance to reach out to these business owners first before restrictive action was taken by county supervisors, he said.
“If (the county) would have told me sooner, a staff member and I would go to all seven of those businesses and say, “Hey business X, whether I agree with this or not, county health has said you’re not in compliance. Help me keep you open,’” Honea said. “Right now we’re trying to keep all or small businesses open and the county seems to be taking action without our input.”
Marana Chamber of Commerce CEO Audra Winters said while she understands Pima County’s need to take drastic measures to combat community spread, she agrees with Honea that county supervisors should have consulted with local community leaders first. She suggests businesses should be allowed to stay open later to accommodate holiday shopping without timeframes that could potentially cause overcrowding.
“I just think it could’ve been done differently. Maybe a different way to support our businesses during the time when they should be making money,” Winters said. “Instead of putting a curfew where you can’t go to businesses, maybe they should give businesses the opportunity to stay open longer so everybody is not shopping at the same time.”
Marana Council Member Jackie Craig said she supports the county’s mandatory curfew because it attempts to alleviate hospital ICUs that are nearing or are at full capacity.
“This is a crisis that involves everyone. It’s not political. Anyone can have a car accident or a heart attack and the overcrowding means they won’t get the right care,” Craig said. “I believe Pima County has the authority to make these decisions under public health. They’ve decided that nothing is working and I bow to their expertise.”
The Town of Oro Valley also received a letter from the county informing them one establishment—Rosatti’s Pizza and Sports Pub on Rancho Vistoso—was recently observed not following the voluntary curfew. Oro Valley Mayor Joe Winfield he views the county’s mandatory curfew as a way “to help clarify with businesses the importance of following the curfew because of the deteriorating health conditions related to COVID-19.”
Winfield said the curfew doesn’t affect his town’s businesses as much as other county municipalities because 10 p.m. is past the bedtime of most Oro Valley residents.
“We already have a self imposed curfew, if you want to call it that. Oro Valley is relatively quiet after 8 p.m.,” Winfield said. “By 10 p.m., you would be hard pressed to find many people out and about.”
Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Dave Perry echoes Winfield’s assessment of their town’s self imposed curfew. While noting virus cases are on the rise throughout the county, Perry questions if the curfew is even relevant to Oro Valley considering the majority of the town’s businesses are closed by 10 p.m.
“I don’t know if most of us in Oro Valley are even awake at 10 p.m. Do we really need a curfew? I don’t know,” Perry said. “But at the same time, we’re serious about the pandemic and I know we have to do the right thing to protect public health. We also need to recognize that if we do the right thing, we’ll get out of this faster.”