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Pima County poised to shutter bars, stop dine-in food over COVID-19

A special meeting of the Pima County Board of Supervisors is set for Thursday morning, with a vote scheduled to shutter bars, gyms and other gathering places, and ending dine-in service at restaurants in unincorporated areas to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The supervisors have not yet acted to approve the move, which would be undertaken by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry after at vote at the 9 a.m. meeting.

The measure, as prepared for the agenda for the meeting, would apply only to areas directly under the authority of the county — it would not be effective inside the city of Tucson, or other municipalities such as Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita or South Tucson.

A declaration of a state of emergency by the supervisors would close all bars, cinemas, theatres, gyms and other fitness facilities, bowling alleys and all other indoor entertainment centers, and limit all food service to carry-out and delivery only. The measure would be in effect beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday and run at least through March 31.

"These are extraordinary times," said Board Chairman Richard Elías. "We need to make sure we have the authority to do what needs to be done to keep people as safe as possible."

Officials are also examining the options of extending the declaration to cover the entire county, including towns like Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita that have not instituted specific restrictions on gathering places.

From the draft proclamation:

The Board orders that effective March 19, 2020, at 8:00 p.m. and continuing until March31,2020 at 11:59 p.m.;

a. All restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, retail food facilities, and other similar businesses and establishments located in unincorporated Pima County,including those housed within or on the same properties as hotels and similar establishments, are prohibited from serving food and beverages for consumption on premises.

Members of the public are prohibited from entering premises subject to this section and remaining on site to consume food and/or beverages.

Businesses and establishments subject to this section that offer food and beverages for on-premises consumption are encouraged to offer food and beverages using delivery service, window service, drive-through service, or drive-up service, and to use precautions in doing so to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19, including social distancing.

In offering food or beverages, a business or establishment subject to this section that does not have the ability to offer window, drive-through or drive-up service may permit members of the public on its premises for the purpose of picking up their food or beverage orders.

"Delivery service," for purposes of this section, includes room service at hotels and similar establishments.

b. The following businesses and establishments located in unincorporated Pima County are hereby closed to use and occupancy by members of the public:

i. Bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries,tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other similar businesses and establishments offering alcoholic beverages or spirituous liquor for consumption on-premises.

ii. Theaters, cinemas, and indoor and outdoor performance venues,

iii. Museums.

iv. Gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities, exercise studios, yoga and barre studios, and other similar facilities.

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v. Bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor climbing or jumping/bouncing facilities,skating rinks, and other similar recreational or entertainment facilities. This section does not prohibit a proprietor, employee, contractor, vendor, or supplier of a local business from entering, using or occupying that place of business in their professional capacity.

Violation of the county restrictions would be a class 1 misdemeanor.

"COVID-19 is growing exponentially," said District 3 Sup. Sharon Bronson. "We have to protect health and safety."

Bronson said the county is reviewing its options to expand the emergency restrictions to cover those towns that haven't yet closed bars and restricted food service, "if we have the statutory authority."

The city of Tucson proclaimed a similar set of emergency restrictions Tuesday night. While other area municipalities — including the towns of Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita —declared states of emergency and made recommendations about social distancing, they did not use their powers to close bars and end dine-in service at eateries.

"We also have to come up with an action plan for rural areas," Bronson said, mentioning in particular access to food and medicine.

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

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

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

The order will also encourage churches to limit gatherings and observe social distancing guidelines.

Under state law, the chair of the Board of Supervisors, like mayors, has the power to declare states of emergency and close certain businesses, impose curfews, and declare areas off-limits.

The county proclamation would also authorize officials to limit face-to-face interactions between county staff and members of the public; limit public access to government buildings and facilities — including service counters and lobbies, and limit public attendance at Board of Supervisors meetings.

Elías and Huckelberry on Tuesday ordered the immediate cancellation of all meetings of county boards and commissions, except the Board of Supervisors, Board of Health, and Planning and Zoning Commission.

Huckelberry also shut down the county's library system.

28 coronavirus cases in Arizona, 5 in Pima County

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

The number of known cases grew by eight overnight, as more tests are being run after weeks of limited access.

There are now 28 total cases diagnosed in the state, with officials expecting many more to be found. A new case was confirmed in Pima County on Wednesday morning, bringing the total here to 5.

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Just 265 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. Prior to Tuesday, the state lab had tested 221 patients suspected of carrying the virus. The state lab has now ruled out 265 people with negative tests.

Statewide, there have been 28 positive results, with 102 pending tests at the state lab, as of Tuesday morning.

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

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.

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Randy Metcalf/Pima County

Board Chairman Richard Elías issues a different sort of proclamation — of TucsonSentinel.com Day, to mark the 10th birthday of this publication — in January.