Gov. Ducey orders Arizona bars, gyms and theaters closed again; large gatherings restricted
On April 29, as his statewide stay-at-home order approached its expiration date, Gov. Doug Ducey touted the state's "hard-fought gains" during the pandemic and promised a careful, gradual reopening.
"It would be irresponsible for me to make decisions to reopen with a chance that I would have to come back because we didn't have the proper guidance or data and ask people to do this again," the Republican leader said.
On Monday, he found himself asking just that — at least for bars, gyms, theaters, water parks and inner-tubing. Facing mounting pressure to respond to the ballooning COVID-19 numbers that followed his revised, accelerated reopening plan, he issued an executive order giving those entities until 8 p.m. to shut down.
The directive also caps swimming pool crowds at 10 and public gatherings at 50, allowing local governments to enforce closures and restrictions through July 27.
"Arizonans have been, by and large, terrific, fantastic and responsible," the governor said during his afternoon news briefing.
"But, we have found some situations in categories where we need to take more aggressive actions, and that's what we're going to do today."'Brutal' trends in the state's numbers
Indeed, the order followed another weekend full of packed bars, clubs and pools in metropolitan Phoenix — despite the state experiencing one of the worst COVID-19 spikes in the country.
Arizona has confirmed more than 74,000 cases, with 3,000-plus new cases reported on five of the past seven days.
The new order appears to close a previous loophole that allowed bars and clubs with food service to open earlier than White House guidelines recommended.
"I think we saw the photos and videos of some of the things that were happening around our state this weekend, and the result of that (type of activity) has been an increase in the spread," Ducey said. "With this targeted approach, we know that we can pump the brakes."
Ducey said the state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control would temporarily stop issuing special event and festival licenses in response to the new gathering limits. Local governments can still choose to approve certain gatherings where social distancing and other safety precautions will be implemented, he said.
Ducey also said the order's July 27 expiration date was an "aspirational goal" and would depend on how the state's spiking COVID-19 numbers and hospitalizations evolved, calling the state's recent numbers "brutal."
In addition to the state's 1,588 known COVID-19 deaths, 84% of current inpatient beds and 88% of ICU beds are occupied. Those numbers are expected to get worse, and doctors are preparing for triage situations where those with the best chance of surviving would receive the most comprehensive treatment.'Whatever is necessary'
In the days leading up to Monday's announcements, critics had urged the governor to take more aggressive, concrete policy steps in response to the COVID-19 surge, such as implementing a statewide mask mandate.
“The virus does not yield to polite requests or expressions of grave concern,” Senate Minority Leader David Bradley, D-Tucson, wrote in a letter to the governor on Monday, prior to the press conference.
“You need to make the tough choices necessary to protect the health and lives of Arizonans. You need to act regardless of cost."
By Monday — four days after he'd stressed "personal responsibility" as a solution — Ducey agreed, saying "additional actions" were needed to get the state "back on track."
In addition to the closures and gathering limits, he issued a separate order delaying the start of in-person instruction for K-12 schools until at least Aug. 17. And he announced the state would outfit all people employed or incarcerated in state correctional facilities with masks.
"It will take several weeks for the mitigations that we have put in place and are putting in place to take effect," Ducey said, later referencing the mask mandates recently imposed by cities and counties. "But, they will take effect."
Pressed on why he didn't revive his stay-at-home order or implement more sweeping closures Monday — his order doesn't apply to churches or restaurants — the governor said he'd "talked to health care leaders from around the state … about different options that were in front of us" and adopted a narrow approach.
Going forward, he said he would do "whatever is necessary to protect the lives and livelihoods of Arizonans."
"This is a dangerous virus," he said. "We need to slow it down and contain it."
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