Maria Elena Cruz

Hon. Maria Elena Cruz issues the oath of office to new Scottsdale Council members, from left, Tammy Caputi, Tom Durham and Betty Janik on Jan. 12.

The coronavirus pandemic remained front and center when Scottsdale’s new council members were sworn into office on Jan. 12.

New Mayor David Ortega wasted little time, issuing two proclamations aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, including reinstating the city’s mask mandate.

Shortly before being sworn in by Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Maria Elena Cruz, Ortega addressed the crowd at the small swearing-in ceremony outside City Hall and focused on the need to remain vigilant in the effort to slow the spread of the virus.

“Too many have fallen ill, too many have passed on, and too many are struggling to make ends meet,” Ortega said.

During the swearing-in ceremony, other new members of the council, including Betty Janik and Tammy Caputi, also focused on the need to get the pandemic under control in order to support local businesses and residents and relieve stress on the healthcare system.

Just minutes after being sworn in, Ortega signed off on an emergency declaration that essentially continued a previous declaration issued by his predecessor, former Mayor Jim Lane. 

That declaration gave broad authority to City Manager Jim Thompson to take steps to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Scottsdale, including restricting or closing city buildings, limiting hours of operations at public facilities and imposing screening measures for entry to city facilities.

Hours later, Council approved the declaration at its first meeting of the year.

A day later on Jan. 13, Ortega reinstated Scottsdale’s mask mandate.

Lane initially issued an order in June 2020 requiring mask wearing in most public places in Scottsdale but allowed that order to lapse in September because Maricopa County had, by then, issued its own over-arching mandate that covered all cities in the county.That county mandate is still in effect in Scottsdale and other cities.

According to a city press release, the new Scottsdale mandate is designed to support “Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s “Mask Up Arizona” campaign and is aligned with Maricopa County’s face covering requirement.”

Ortega’s order requires masks and social distancing in most public spaces, including grocery stores, restaurants and bars, gyms, retail stores and special events.

The order applies to anyone 6 and up.

The order includes several exceptions, including individuals who are eating or drinking at restaurants, engaged in religious services, exercising outdoors and those who should not wear masks due to medical or mental health conditions.

There are also exceptions for public safety personnel to avoid impeding with their work and certain other situations with small groups where social distancing can be maintained.

The mask mandate could remain in effect until the overarching emergency declaration has ended, but it will be reviewed periodically, according to the text of the order.

“Community health supports all other aspects of neighborhood life, business activity, medical services, and education,” Ortega said. “And of course, good health drives our hospitality-centered economy.”