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Pima County extends bar closure, other CV-19 restrictions until April 10

Bars and gyms and other gathering places, including dine-in restaurants, will remain closed in unincorporated Pima County until April 10 after the Board of Supervisors OKed the extension at a special meeting Thursday.

The board proclaimed a state of emergency, closing down bars and other venues and limiting food service, on a 3-2 party-line vote during a special meeting about the coronavirus outbreak last Thursday.

Since that vote, the number of cases in the state has increased by more than 10 times, with two deaths in the county and 75 reported positive CV-19 patients here.

The supervisors voted 3-2 on an extension of that emergency order this week.

All three Democrats — Chairman Richard Elías and Sups. Sharon Bronson and Ramon Valadez — voted in favor. Republican Sups. Steve Christy and Ally Miller voted "no."

The measure applies only to areas directly under the authority of the county — it is not effective inside the city of Tucson, or other municipalities such as Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita or South Tucson.

"We need to act like every contact we have is a source of infection," county Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia told the Board of Supervisors on Thursday, telling everyone to reduce their interactions outside their homes as much as possible.

Under an amendment proposed by Valadez last week, any further actions under the state of emergency must be approved by the full Board of Supervisors, thus limiting the power that could otherwise be used by the chairman under state law.

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The proclamation by the supervisors closed 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 took effect at 8 p.m. Thursday and was set to run at least through March 31. It will not expire April 10.

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

While officials did not include any further restrictions in the proclamation, except for the extension of the period it remains in effect, they have added a section instituting civil tickets as initial measures against violators, rather than having only a low-level misdemeanor crime as the sole enforcement measure.

Violators will first receive a written warning, then a civil fine of $500 for second violation, with subsequent violations incurring civil penalties of $2,500 each. Law enforcement will still be able to use cite violators for class 1 misdemeanors under state law, as well.

The supervisors plan to hold special meetings every Thursday morning for the near future, to deal with coronavirus issues that may arise.

During last week's meeting, Miller questioned why there was a need to declare a state of emergency. Huckelberry told her and the rest of the board that the move "makes us eligible for an aid offered by the state or federal governments" to fund the county's response to coronavirus.

"This is an emergency; I don't know how anyone can say otherwise," Bronson said during that meeting, which she attended by phone.

Since last Thursday, reported cases of COVID-19 patients with positive tests have increased more than 10 times in Arizona, from 44 to more than 500. Two people have died in Pima County from the virus, among the 8 deaths across Arizona

Under Gov. Doug Ducey's March 19 executive order, bars and other gathering places located in counties where there has been a positive COVID-19 diagnosis cannot reopen until April 2 at the earliest, and his order will continue in place until further notice unless it is specifically lifted.

During last week's meeting, Christy questioned why the county couldn't follow the lead of those towns, and urge voluntary measures by bars and restaurants, rather than closing down businesses like the city of Tucson, calling them "very good models."

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The county proclamation is "extremely harsh and draconian," the Republican supervisor said. "Literally this order is shutting down our community."

Later that same day, Marana and other municipalities shuttered restaurants within town limits, and the Republican governor barred all dine-in service at any restaurant located in a county with a confirmed COVID-19 case. Tucson Mayor Regina Romero had ordered similar measures within the city before the county took action.

From the proclamation voted on last week:

The Board orders that effective March 19, 2020, at 8:00 p.m. and continuing until March 31, 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.

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.

Bars shuttered, restaurants takeout/delivery only

Ducey issued orders on last Thursday to close all bars in counties that have seen confirmed cases of coronavirus. That now includes 13 of Arizona's 15 counties.

Restaurants in the covered counties can only offer takeout/delivery food, with no dine-in service allowed.

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Movie theatres and gyms are also to close in the affected counties under Ducey's order.

To mitigate some of the financial burdens of the policy, Ducey ordered that restaurants affected be allowed to deliver alcohol along with food.

10 times as many reported cases

Last Thursday, there were 44 reported patients who had tested positive for coronavirus in Arizona; 7 of them in Pima County.

On Wednesday, state officials said there were 401 cases in the state, with 49 Pima County residents diagnosed. That increased to more than 500 on Thursday, with 75 cases in Pima County.

Eight Arizonans, including two Pima residents, have died from coronavirus since the outbreak began.

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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.