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Tucson orders closure of all bars & gyms; only to-go at restaurants due to coronavirus

Mayor declares state of emergency; only to-go food service available; retail stores not affected

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect Mayor Regina Romero's retraction of her statement that restaurants would be ordered closed. Take-out and drive-through service will be allowed.

All bars and other public venues will be shut down in Tucson through the end of the month, with restaurants limited to only take-out service, Mayor Regina Romero announced Tuesday afternoon.

The announcement was framed in a manner that initially caused worry and confusion among local restaurant owners.

"I have decided that it is in the best interest of maintaining public health to close restaurants, bars, food courts, gyms, and other venues where groups of people congregate through the end of the month, effective 8pm this evening," she said in a tweet that was quickly deleted.

Drive-through and take-out services will not be affected by Romero's decree, she clarified after tweeting an announcement that restaurants would be closed.

Read the full proclamation: Tucson state of emergency: Bars closed, restaurants limited

"This morning, after consulting with business stakeholders, the city attorney, and city manager, I have made the determination that it is in the best interest of maintaining public health to suspend dine-in services in restaurants and food courts, and transition to delivery/pick-up only services. Bars, gyms, and other specific venues stated in the proclamation where groups of people congregate are directed to be closed through the end of the month," she said.

"My top priority, above all else, is to protect public health. This is a painful decision that I do not take lightly. Our restaurants and small businesses need clear, uniform direction, and this order provides them exactly that," Romero tweeted before updating her public comments to reflect that restaurants were not being ordered to completely close.

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Romero declared a state of emergency in the city due to the coronavirus pandemic. Violation of the restrictions announced by the mayor is a class 1 misdemeanor.

"These changes are immediate and will last through the end of March, at which point we will re-examine our policies," she said.

All businesses should establish social distancing policies to their employees and patrons, and avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, she urged.

"My top priority, above all else, is to protect public health. This is a painful decision that I do not take lightly. Several restaurants have already stopped dine-in service and transitioned to all drive through and curb-side pick-up," she said.

"I want to reiterate that food being served by our restaurants is safe. It is the congregation of individuals in a dine-in setting that is unsafe," the Democratic mayor said.

Romero also said that:

  • All service counters and lobbies within city buildings, including Ward offices and City Hall, will be closed through the end of March. The City will be continuing services and operations electronically.
  • There will be no interruption in trash, recycling, landfill, or water services.
  • All evictions on city-owned public housing will be suspended through the end of April.
  • There will be no water shutoffs through the end of April.

Under Romero's proclamation, members of the public are prohibited from entering restaurants and other food service facilities to consume food or beverages. Pickup/take-out and delivery of food is still allowed.

The closure order also affects breweries and distilleries, theatres and cinemas and outdoor performance venues, museums, gyms, bowling alleys and other recreational and entertainment facilities.

Not affected are grocery stories, pharmacies and drug stores, food banks, cafeterias in health care facilities, banks and credit unions, and vendors at the airport.

Romero encouraged churches to limit gatherings and observe social distancing guidelines.

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"Tucson, I know we will get through this. At this time, the best we can do is come together as a community and take care of each other," Romero said. "We are strong, we are resilient, we are compasssionate, we are Tucson."

Under state law, mayors have the power to declare states of emergency and close certain businesses, impose curfews, and declare areas off-limits. Under Tucson's City Charter, the mayor may rule by decree in times of "great danger."

"This is a responsible and prudent decision that's in the best interest of public health," Councilman Paul Cunningham told TucsonSentinel.com.

"The earlier we take steps, we'll flatten the curve and the shorter we'll have to take these actions," he said. "We've got to limit exposure and this is the best way to do it."

"We knew this was coming, and are going to try and keep the community and our employees fed the best we can," said Rocco DiGrazia, owner of Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria.

"We understand the severity and gravity of the situation you are navigating," El Charro owner Ray Flores wrote on behalf of a group of about 25 local restaurateurs who favored a move to a take-out/delivery-only program for two weeks, saying it would "encourage social distancing while serviing safe restaurant food."

Flagstaff announced earlier that restaurants will offer to-go service only, with other venues such as bars, gyms and theatres ordered closed beginning Tuesday.

20 coronavirus cases in Arizona, 4 in Pima County

Twenty Arizonans have now tested postive for COVID-19 as the pandemic continues Tuesday and the number of people being tested in the state increases.

The number of known cases grew by just two overnight, after a 50 percent jump in the tally released Monday morning, as more tests are being run after weeks of limited access.

There are now 20 total cases diagnosed in the state, with officials expecting many more to be found. A new case was confirmed in Pima County on Monday morning, bringing the total here to four.

Just 221 people have been tested by the Arizona Public Health Laboratory, while private labs coming online are not reporting the total number of tests to state officials. Monday, the state lab had tested 200 patients suspected of carrying the virus. The state lab has now ruled out 142 people with negative tests.

Statewide, there have been 20 positive results, with 66 pending tests at the state lab, as of Tuesday morning.

Sunday, 183 people had been tested, with 12 positive cases and 50 pending tests.

The latest local case was tested by the Arizona Public Health Laboratory, and Pima County was alerted early Monday, officials here said.

The diagnosed patient "has been receiving care at a local hospital since symptoms began and remains in care as they recover," officials said.

One of the Pima County cases is a patient at the Tucson VA hospital, who was diagnosed on March 14 and is still be treated in isolation by the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System.

Disclosure: Rocco’s has been a sponsor of TucsonSentinel.com for the past decade.


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1 comment on this story

1
193 comments
Mar 17, 2020, 2:32 pm
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Romero is a disaster. First she got out ahead of the county health department with her proclamations, now she is trump-tweeting erroneous information.
And she can’t put together a cogent spoken sentence.
God help us.

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Preventing the spread of coronavirus

From the Pima County Health Department: COVID-19 spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms are thought to appear within 2 to 14 days after exposure and consist of fever, cough, runny nose, or difficulty breathing. Those considered at highest risk for contracting the virus are individuals with travel to an area where the virus is spreading, or individuals in close contact with a person who is diagnosed as having COVID-19.

The best ways to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, are to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Public health officials advise residents that flu and other respiratory diseases are circulating in the community, and are recommending everyone get a flu shot and follow basic prevention guidelines.

If you have recently traveled to an area where COVID-19 is circulating, and have developed fever with cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of your travel, or have had contact with someone who is suspected to have 2019 novel coronavirus, please stay home. Most people with COVID-19 develop mild symptoms. If you have mild symptoms, please do not seek medical care, but do stay home and practice social distancing from others in the household where possible. If you do have shortness of breath or more severe symptoms, please call your health care provider to get instructions before arriving.