Governor Doug Ducey announced new measures today meant to limit the spread of COVID-19 as case numbers continued to climb.
At a press conference this afternoon, Ducey said his latest executive order to fight coronavirus would:
- Close down bars, gyms, movie theaters, water parks, and tubing.
- Prohibit gatherings of 50 or more people.
- Require pools to institute measures to avoid gatherings of 10 or more at public or private pools.
- Delay the start of public schools by two weeks.
He said cities can approve large gatherings if appropriate safety measures are in place, and bars can resume business in 30 days if they have measures for social distancing.
"We're fixing it," Ducey said in response to a question about bars being able to remain open by exploiting loopholes in previous orders.
The new restrictions on mass gatherings would not include political protests or religious worship, Ducey added, saying that "the Constitution remains the supreme law of the land in Arizona."
The measures come when Arizona's Department of Health Services is activating crisis care standards for hospitals, which allow them to triage who receives care and protect them from some liability. Eighty-eight percent of ICU beds are occupied currently statewide. The number includes beds occupied by people who had elective surgeries, and doesn't include surge beds that have not yet been activated.
“We’re asking them to prepare for surge and to anticipate fully staffing their hospitals," said Dr. Cara Christ, state health director. That means stopping all but the most essential surgeries when beds are full, activating incident command centers, and coordinating with local health departments.
Christ called the measure proactive to allows hospitals to react as necessary. Decisions about who would receive crucial resources would only occur if there was a shortage of a specific resource, she said.
She added that the state is requesting federal assistance to bring in medical workers, and is contracting with a national organization to staff St. Luke's Medical Center in Phoenix, which had closed last year but is being prepared to help with the pandemic.
Ducey once again implored Arizonan's to wear masks and to stay home when possible.
"We can go back to where we were in terms of slowing the virus," he said.
He also defended his actions so far, saying he's been following advice from public health officials, and that he was using a targeted approach to address congregate settings. While he cited images of Arizonans in packed crowds at bars and tubing at the Salt River in explaining the new measures, he said he was confident people would follow the guidelines during the holiday weekend ahead.
"I think Arizonans are smart and have common sense and will demonstrate responsibility," he said.
Christ and Ducey also said they are expanding testing locations and capacity. Christ asked people who have had COVID-19 to donate plasma to help assist COVID-19 patients.
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