Keep New Times Free
Restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, and other enclosed congregate settings that Governor Doug Ducey had previously targeted as locations where COVID-19 was spreading may now operate at full capacity under a new order from the governor.
The executive order announced this afternoon suspends the occupancy restrictions Ducey had placed on those establishments over the summer.
Under the ranking system developed by state health authorities, every county except three — Santa Cruz, Yavapai, and Yuma — is considered to have “substantial” spread of COVID-19. Previously, that would have meant that the types of establishments Ducey listed in his order would be closed. But Arizona Department of Health Services head Dr. Cara Christ decided to disregard the “substantial” category, so they are operating as if they are in the moderate category — which means 25 percent occupancy for gyms, 50 percent for movie theaters and water parks, and 50 percent for bars converted to dine-in service.
Now, they may discard those restrictions, as long as they also maintain physical distancing between groups, disinfect public spaces, require mask use, and follow other mitigation measures.
“We’ve learned a lot over the past year,” Ducey said in a press release. “Our businesses have done an excellent job at responding to this pandemic in a safe and responsible way. We will always admire the sacrifice they and their employees have made and their vigilance to protect against the virus.”
Arizona is currently averaging around 1,200 cases of COVID-19 a day, but Ducey pointed to the steady decrease in cases since the winter peak and the progress of the vaccination effort. Data from Arizona State University shows that average cases have actually ticked up slightly over the last two days, and experts say the state has not vaccinated anywhere near enough people to make a significant difference in slowing the spread of the virus.
Ducey’s move comes as other conservative governors reconsider COVID-19 mitigation measures. Earlier this week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott lifted the state’s mask mandate and announced that all businesses would be able to operate at full capacity next week. National COVID-19 adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci called the move “inexplicable.”
Ducey did not go as far as Abbott: He still encourages mask-wearing and “personal responsibility.” The reduced restrictions are sure to be a boon to restaurant operators, who have been struggling to make ends meet with reduced capacity.
The executive order also explicitly allows spring training and other major sports to operate with approval from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free… Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who’ve won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism’s existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our “I Support” membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.