While we’re positive there will be some mixed reviews about this decision from Governor Doug Ducey, here is the latest on Arizona re-opening business from azcentral.com:
Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday accelerated his phased reopening plan for Arizona, saying expanded testing and declines in reported COVID- and flu-like illnesses had provided “a green light to make additional decisions for our first step forward.”
Barbershops and salons can resume hair, nail, waxing and other services by appointment Friday if they limit occupancy, implement social distancing measures, up sanitation protocols and provide cloth masks to employees, the governor said.
On Monday, restaurants and coffee shops can start offering dine-in service. They must also limit occupancy and physically distance diners, in addition to checking employees for COVID-19 symptoms before their shifts.
“We’re making decisions with the confidence that we are going in the right direction,” Ducey said during an afternoon press briefing, adding that Arizonans should expect an announcement on fitness centers and swimming pools soon.
“(We) can continue to make decisions, in time, that will turn the light brighter with more economic momentum for our state.”
Ducey points to data to justify pace
The Republican leader already had allowed hospitals to resume elective surgeries. He’d also modified his March 30 statewide stay-at-home order, which generally permits Arizonans to leave their homes only for “essential activities,” to let some nonessential retailers reopen this week.
But last week, he stressed that the available data did not support a full reopening of the state’s economy.
At the time, he said salons — which he shuttered relatively late in response to criticism that stylists could not maintain six feet of social distance — could only open for product sales, not services. He’d said the “best case scenario” for restaurants resuming dine-in service was May 12.
“These have been hard-fought gains,” he said at a briefing on April 29, acknowledging the growing backlash he faced from certain business owners, Republican lawmakers and some Arizonans. “We’ve earned where we are today, and we are not going to undo this.”
Though Ducey repeatedly referred to protecting public health as his top priority Monday, one day before President Donald Trump was scheduled to visit Arizona, he appeared less hesitant to move forward with his phased reopening plan despite the state not having much new data about the spread of the pandemic.
Arguing it was “fair to say today that Arizona is headed in the right direction,” he pointed to four factors to support his decisions:
- Declines in COVID-19- and influenza-like illnesses.
- A decline in positive COVID-19 tests as a percentage of all tests completed,after a weekend “testing blitz.”
- Sufficient hospital capacity to treat all patients.
- An expansion in testing availability.
Indeed, social distancing guidelines and closures appear to have successfully slowed the spread of COVID-19 enough to help the state avoid a spike in cases, overwhelmed hospitals and preventable deaths.
But the state continues to lag in testing: Its three-weekend “testing blitz” started a few days ago, and Ducey just shared plans to expand testing at long-term care facilities and state prisons. That means Monday’s totals of nearly 9,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 362 known deaths don’t provide a comprehensive picture.
And despite a Monday announcement that health officials would immediately begin piloting an “enhanced statewide contact tracing strategy” in Pima and Mohave counties and take it statewide Friday, it’s unclear how that effort will work and whether it’s fully staffed.
Tim Lant, a mathematical epidemiologist at Arizona State University, who has modeled possible reopening scenarios for the state, said late last month that the slowest curve — the one assuming the state didn’t lift restrictions until the end of May — was “the only one that doesn’t put me immediately back on an exponential growth curve” for infections.
‘Protecting public health’ or a ‘disappointment’?
The governor’s update drew mixed reviews from lawmakers and community leaders.
Rep. Randy Friese, a Tucson Democrat and trauma surgeon, posted on Twitter that the state had “not yet met criteria” to reopen given mounting case numbers.
Among other indicators, White House reopening guidelines call for either a 14-day downward trajectory in confirmed COVID-19 cases, or a 14-day decline in the percentage of positive tests among the total tests done. Arizona hasn’t met the first objective, so Ducey is using the second.
That’s despite the mayors of Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff asking him to focus on confirmed cases; positive tests as a percentage of total tests will naturally decrease if a state broadens its testing criteria to include anyone who wants to get tested, as Arizona recently did.
“We are only fooling ourselves,” Friese wrote. “COVID will not be fooled.”
Glenn Hamer, a longtime Ducey ally and president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, disagreed, saying he thought the state was “safely and responsibly reopening parts of the economy that have been closed.”
“Gov. Ducey’s decision-making throughout this pandemic has been centered on protecting public health and ensuring that Arizona returns stronger. I am confident that we will achieve both goals.”
State Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said she was “grateful that the governor has moved up the date for dine in services to May 11” but “very worried that many of my constituents will be permanently out of business before that time.”
Townsend is pushing for a resolution that would overturn the governor’s March emergency declaration, though the Legislature would need to be in session for lawmakers to have a chance to vote on it.
“At the end of the day, we are treating differently our corporations and businesses depending on their size,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I am still very disappointed and will continue to press for a concurrent resolution to put an end to this.”
Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, a Scottsdale Republican who’s said she would support a mirror resolution in the Senate, also lamented Ducey’s decision not to fully reopen immediately.
“Why can’t the gyms and fitness community open…?” she wrote on Twitter. “Doesn’t make sense. Let people decide if that want to go and work out.”
In a subsequent tweet, she asked why the governor’s top concern wasn’t “both public heath AND economic health.”
“We do not have to choose one or the other,” she wrote. “Both can exist together in harmony.”
The governor has repeatedly said he shares business owners’ “sense of urgency to reopen” but doesn’t want to be “irresponsible.” Polling indicates a strong, bipartisan majority of Americans supported restrictions to protect public health during the pandemic and worried more about closures being lifted too soon rather than too late.
Pressed Monday on whether he’d reverse course on easing restrictions if the state saw evidence of a “second wave” of COVID-19 infections, Ducey indicated he didn’t anticipate having to pull back but said the state would “do whatever we need to do to protect the people of Arizona.”
“If, God forbid, things were to turn in the wrong direction and spike — which we’re not seeing that right now anywhere — Arizona’s prepared,” he said.