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Romero, Valadez urge Ducey use 'caution' in relaxing COVID-19 restrictions

With coronavirus restrictions imposed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey set to expire at end of the week, Tucson's mayor and the chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors expressed concerns Wednesday. Ducey has yet to indicate if he will extend or modify the executive order.

Mayor Regina Romero also joined with other Arizona civic leaders in warning that "we've seen other communities who have reopened too soon and paid the price in both public health and with a second economic shutdown. We do not want that to happen in Arizona."

Ducey is expected to make an announcement this afternoon.

Romero and Pima County Chairman Ramon Valadez said they "are united in our concern on relaxing restrictions and opening up our economy at this time. We encourage Gov. Ducey to give counties and local jurisdictions the flexibility to act at the regional level if he does not want to extend his 'Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected' executive order statewide."

"The CDC's guidelines on 'Opening Up America Again' clearly state that governors have the discretion to allow local jurisdictions to act at the regional level. The Pima County Health Department has issued guidelines based off CDC recommendations on when it is safe to begin a phased re-opening, including a decline of positive cases over 14 consecutive days, widespread testing, and sufficient PPE for first responders and healthcare workers," the pair of Democrats said in a brief news release.

"We urge great caution in any relaxation," they said.

As of Wednesday, 304 Arizona residents have died from COVID-19, with more than 7,200 confirmed reported coronavirus cases in the state — numbers that continue to increase daily. The state Department of Health Services announced 18 additional deaths and 254 new cases on Wednesday.

Romero joined with the mayors of Phoenix and Flagstaff in putting out a more extensive statement outlining their stance that Arizona must follow the guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control before loosening any COVID-19-related restrictions, warning against reopening "too soon."

Noting that Ducey "has not yet offered clear guidance as to whether this order will be extended, modified, or end fully," Romero and Mayors Coral Evans (Flagstaff) and Kate Gallego (Phoenix) said that "state must be able to provide clear data showing that we have achieved a 14-day decline in COVID cases before the economy begins to reopen."

"To achieve a two-week decline in COVID cases will require a significant ramping up of statewide testing. We applaud the governor's recent action to expand testing to a larger segment of the population. The data collected from these tests will be critical in determining our ability to safely reopen the economy without unnecessarily imperiling the lives of our residents," the Democratic trio said.

"Increasing testing and using that data collected to track our progress against CDC guidelines provides the safest route forward as we navigate these unchartered waters," they said.

"We are all eager to reopen the economy as soon as it is safe to do so," the mayors said. "We again ask the governor to work closely with cities on COVID resiliency efforts. Our cities' first responders are tasked with carrying out any statewide executive orders and the more time they have to prepare the better chance we have to keep our police, fire, and residents safe and healthy."

Ducey issued his order on March 30, declaring that Arizona residents should only be in public to conduct essential business or carry out essential activities. Some businesses were forced to close under the order.

The order limited cities, counties and towns from issuing any orders that are more restrictive than the regulations released by Ducey.

Prior to the Republican governor's order, Romero and Pima County had both issued declarations limiting non-essential businesses and advising residents to stay home as much as possible.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus on March 9.