As COVID Infections Rise, Executive Orders Mandate Masks, Encourage Vaccines

Christopher Lomahquahu

Gila River Indian News


In response to rising COVID-19 infections, Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis has announced revised Executive Orders to urge Gila River Indian Community members to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and its Delta variant. In video addresses to GRIC members aired Aug. 6 and 13, Gov. Lewis stressed the importance of getting vaccinated.


“I want to inform you of a new executive order that I signed today, the twelfth executive order of the pandemic. This will address the rising threat of the Delta variant in our community,” Gov. Lewis explained.  


“To put this into perspective, the number of cases in just July is higher than the previous four months combined,” said Gov. Lewis, who added that the Delta variant has been aggressive among the unvaccinated. Statistics show that statewide in Arizona, unvaccinated people account for 99.5 percent of COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths. 


Executive Order No. 12 restricts gatherings to no more than 15 people, including funerals. It also includes mandatory face masks worn by all persons over the age of two years old while inside public buildings in the Community regardless of vaccination status. 


The mask mandate applies to teachers, staff, students and visitors to any school within the Community. In the Aug. 13 video, Gov. Lewis said schools within the Community will look to virtual learning based on the alarming trend of COVID-19 positivity rates among GRIC youth under 19 years old. 


“I made the decision to move schools to virtual learning starting Aug. 16,” said Gov. Lewis. He explained that he will work with schools to meet the new virtual learning conditions, including for students with special needs for instruction. Lewis said students who require specialized instruction will be able to receive in-person lessons, while maintaining safety protocols.


Gov. Lewis emphasized that infections rates have surged after a slowdown throughout the spring. “The rising number of cases and the fact they’re happening among our youth … means we need to put back into place some of those protections that will lessen the transmission of the virus.” 


The Governor encouraged all Community members eligible for vaccines to get one as soon possible. He described the mask mandates as a necessary step to ensure that all Community members are protected against the virus – especially the unvaccinated. Masks have been shown to prevent the spread of the virus to others.


Gov. Lewis said the Community eviction moratorium has been continued for any new evictions initiated by the Department of Community Housing. The executive orders also maintain testing for unvaccinated GRIC employees and resumes testing for Community employees who are fully vaccinated. 


He said the revised executive orders also apply to GRIC employees seeking to take personal trips, which will be reviewed on a case by case basis that considers the destination and the traveler’s vaccination status.  

“Community Members, please show that love by getting vaccinated. This is the greatest gift you can provide to your families, our students and teachers, your children and parents, and the whole Community. Help us stay Gila River Strong – because each and every one of you has a valuable place within the Community,” said Gov. Lewis.