Arizona sheriff responds after positive COVID-19 test, says he wouldn't enforce mask mandate
PHOENIX - The Pinal County, Arizona sheriff announced additional details about his recent trip to Washington, DC, where he tested positive for COVID-19 prior to a scheduled meeting with President Donald Trump.
During a phone interview on Saturday with the Republic of Arizona U.S. TODAY, Sheriff Mark Lamb said the White House called him on June 13 and asked him to be present when Trump signed an executive order that used law enforcement to use them would keep power at a higher level.
Lamb said he flew to Washington on Monday evening and visited the White House on Tuesday when he tested positive for COVID-19. He later visited an infirmary and was tested a second time; This test was also positive.
"I was surprised," Lamb said of the positive test result. "I mean, if I looked back I would say that I was a bit down from a long weekend. But I had no symptoms."
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb
Lamb said he then rented a car and drove back to Arizona - arrived on Thursday evening.
Despite his diagnosis, the Pinal County sheriff says he still has no plans to wear a mask in public or enforce future orders that require it.
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Probably COVID-19 contracted at campaign event
Lamb said he likely signed COVID-19 at a campaign event on June 13. He initially planned to have an event titled "Come Pick Up A Yard Sign", but more people than expected appeared.
"So many people showed up," Lamb said. "And we did it outside and did it so that we knew that some people could keep social distance when they showed up. We tried to follow some protocols as much as possible."
Lamb said, however, that he had not worn a mask or practiced social distancing at the campaign event, and estimated that the majority of the 200 people who attended the event in San Tan Valley, Arizona, also did not wear masks.
Lamb said he had informed the Pinal County Department of Health of his positive test result and given him his flight information. He wasn't sure who the agency contacted afterwards.
He plans to quarantine himself by the end of the month.
When asked if he would like to hold further public events after completing his self-isolation, Lamb said that he probably would not and that he was not trying to put people at risk. That said, lamb is unlikely to continue wearing a mask when it is in public, he said.
"When I get out, I don't wear masks," Lamb said. "And I respect people's personal decisions not to wear a mask."
However, according to Lamb, the contract with COVID-19 reminded him to be more careful and make social distance better when he is with others.
"What I've learned from this is that I need to maintain social distance better," said Lamb. "It was really easy to just fall back. You know we kind of got back into the groove and it was really easy to just go back to your normal nature and shake hands and do all of these things. Something like that reminds you that you need to be a little bit more careful.
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Would not enforce the mask mandate
Lamb made national headlines for saying he would not quote or arrest those who violated Governor Doug Ducey's previous order to stay at home. He later said that the same would apply if Pinal County and its municipalities passed a mandate that people must wear masks in public.
Ducey held a press conference on Wednesday, announcing that he would allow cities and counties to decide whether people in their respective communities should wear masks. A large number of cities - including Phoenix and Tucson - have since accepted such mandates.
Lamb said he had expressed his refusal of a mandate to the board of directors and said that this would create a massive influx of phone calls from people reporting their neighbors at a time when law enforcement is already busy.
"I don't think it's the best use of police services," Lamb said. "We'll see what happens to our county. I expressed their feelings about it and where I think we should be there, and we'll see what happens when they come back."
If the county passed a mandate that required masks, Lamb said he would continue to educate people about the law, but would not quote or arrest anyone.
"We have no intention of quoting or arresting people who don't wear masks or things like that," Lamb said. "I don't think that - I will never think that this is okay in this society here in America. I just don't think that is beneficial to your community."
Follow the reporter Perry Vandell on Twitter, @PerryVandell.
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This article originally appeared in the Republic of Arizona: Arizona's sheriff, Mark Lamb, says he has no plans to enforce masks
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