PHOENIX – The sheriff of Pinal County in Arizona offered additional details about his recent trip to Washington, D.C., where he tested positive for COVID-19 prior to a planned meeting with President Donald Trump.
During a Saturday phone interview with The Arizona Republic of the USA TODAY Network, Sheriff Mark Lamb said the White House called him June 13 and asked that he be present when Trump signed an executive order that would hold law enforcement to a higher standard when they used force.
Lamb said he flew into Washington Monday evening and visited the White House Tuesday, when he tested positive for COVID-19. He later visited an infirmary and was tested a second time; that test also came back positive.
“I was surprised,” Lamb said regarding the positive test result. “I mean, if I looked back, I would say that I was a little run-down from, you know, a long weekend. But I didn’t have any symptoms.”
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb
Lamb said he then rented a car and drove back to Arizona — arriving Thursday evening.
Despite his diagnosis, the Pinal County sheriff says he still has no plans to wear a mask in public or enforce any future orders requiring one to do so.
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Likely contracted COVID-19 at campaign event
Lamb said he likely contracted COVID-19 at a campaign event he held on June 13, He initially planned for it to be a “come pick up a yard sign” event, but more people showed up than anticipated.
“So many people showed up,” Lamb said. “And we did it outside and we made it so that we knew that if some people showed up they could maintain social distancing. We tried to follow some protocols as much as we could.”
However, Lamb said he didn’t wear a mask or practice social distancing at the campaign event and estimated that the majority of the 200 people who attended the event in San Tan Valley, Arizona, weren’t wearing masks either.
Lamb said he informed the Pinal County Department of Public Health of his positive test result and gave them his flight information. He didn’t know exactly whom the agency contacted after that.
He intends to self-quarantine through the end of the month.
When asked whether he planned to hold more public events once his self-isolation was complete, Lamb said he probably wouldn’t and that he’s not trying to put people at risk. That said, Lamb will likely continue to not wear a mask when out in public, he said.
“When I come back out, I don’t like to wear masks,” Lamb said. “And I respect people’s personal choices to not wear a mask.”
However, Lamb said contracting COVID-19 reminded him to be more careful and do a better job of social distancing when he’s around others.
“What I’ve learned through this is I need to do a better job of maintaining social distancing,” Lamb said. “It was really easy to just fall back. You know, we kind of were getting back into the groove and it was really easy to just fall back into your normal nature and be shaking hands and doing all these things that. Something like this reminds you that you got to be a little bit more careful.
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Would not enforce mask mandate
Lamb made national headlines for saying he wouldn’t cite or arrest those in violation of Gov. Doug Ducey’s previous stay-at-home order. He later said the same would apply if Pinal County and its municipalities passed a mandate requiring people to wear masks when out in public.
Ducey held a news conference Wednesday announcing that he would allow cities and counties to decide whether to require people to wear masks in their respective communities. A large number of cities — including Phoenix and Tucson — have since adopted such mandates.
Lamb said he expressed his opposition to a mandate to the board of supervisors and said it would elicit a massive influx of phone calls from people reporting their neighbors at a time when law enforcement is already busy.
“I don’t find it to be the best use of police services,” Lamb said. “We’ll see what happens with our county. I have expressed to them my feelings about it and where I think we should be on it and we’ll see what happens when they come back.”
Should the county pass a mandate requiring masks, Lamb said he would continue to educate people about the law, but would not cite or arrest anyone.
“We do not have plans to cite or arrest people for not wearing a mask or those types of things,” Lamb said. “I don’t think that — I will never think that’s OK in this society here in America. I just don’t think that is beneficial to your community.”
Follow reporter Perry Vandell on Twitter, @PerryVandell.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona Sheriff Mark Lamb says he has no plans to enforce masks