Ducey shuts bars & gyms, activates 'crisis care' rationing, citing 'brutal facts' of COVID-19 outbreak
School reopening pushed back to mid-August; Crowded hospitals to triage coronavirus care; Elective surgeries curtailed
Bars and gyms in Arizona will be closed until at least the end of July, Gov. Doug Ducey ordered Monday, citing the "brutal facts" of the coronavirus outbreak — especially the growing number of cases in residents aged 20-44.
Also closed will be movie theaters, water parks and tubing operations. "Large gatherings" of 50 or more people will be prohibited, under an executive order that takes effect at 8 p.m. Monday night.
The state is implementing "crisis standards of care" for hospitals, allowing them to choose which patients to treat if overwhelmed and curtailing elective surgeries in crowded medical centers.
The first day of school for Arizona public schools will be pushed back until at least August 17, he said.
Many hospitals across the state are becoming jammed with coronavirus cases. Tucson Medical Center just "cannibalized" 21 pediatric hospital beds to be used as adult surgical care beds because the facility is treating so many COVID-19 cases, an internal hospital source said Monday.
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In addition to bars and theaters, the governor also ordered the closure of water parks and tubing companies after reports of crowds on the Salt River over the weekend.
"Our numbers continue to increase... they're going in the wrong direction," Ducey said Monday. "We're taking additional actions to contain this virus."
"Mask up," he said. The Republican governor again stopped short of issuing a statewide mandate to wear masks in public.
The order barring gatherings of 50 or more people in public includes churches and other religious events, Ducey said. But the governor hedged when questioned by reporters, saying the "Constitution remains the supreme law of the land in Arizona" when pressed on whether the order pertains to political rallies and churches.
The ban on large gatherings applies "even if physical distancing is possible," Ducey's office said. The order "enables local governing jurisdictions, such as the city, town or county, to approve events on the condition of meeting certain safety precautions, such as physical distancing."
The latest updates from state health officials are based on incomplete data, officials said, with no new deaths reported but state officials indicating that Tuesday's updates will include data that was not reported on Monday morning.
Ducey ran through several charts of statistics during a press conference Monday afternoon, citing data from the New York Times and Arizona Department of Health Services, describing them as the "brutal facts of our situation today."
There 625 new cases in the partial report Monday morning, with 74,533 reported cases overall, and at least 1,588 Arizonans who have died from COVID-19.
Even without the full new numbers on Monday, the number of reported cases in Arizona has gone from just 18,465 cases a month ago to more than 74,500 cases on Monday. There had been 885 deaths from the disease in the state before May 29. Two weeks ago, the numbers stood at 36,705 cases, with 1,194 deaths.
"If you don't need to go out, don't go out," Ducey said. "You are safer at home."
"We're seeing an increase in young people — in Arizona that's making up a large portion of our new cases," he said. 20 percent of those hospitalized in the state for COVID-19 are aged 20-44, he said, noting that many have obesity and diabetes, which increase the risk of dying of the disease.
Enforcement of the new orders will be "led by local public health officials and local authorities," Ducey said.
Arizona crisis care standards
Under the state's plan for hospitals in "crisis" — when there aren't enough resources, including beds and staff, to treat everyone — patients will be assessed to determine who will be treated. The base assessment of those who will be most likely to benefit from treatment, rather than those who are the most ill — the most important criteria being the number of years a patient is likely to live, and their underlying conditions.
"Triage decisions will be made without regard to basis of race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, veteran status, age, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity, quality of life, or any other ethically irrelevant criteria," the state plan says.
Patients under age 18, first responders and frontline healthcare workers, and single parents will be prioritized for treatment under the plan. Pregnant women and younger people will also be moved up the line for treatment if not all patients can be provided for.
Ordered to close are:
- Bars with a series 6 or 7 liquor license from the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control (these entities may provide take-out and curbside service)
- Indoor gyms and fitness clubs or centers
- Indoor movie theaters
- Water parks
- Tubing operators.
The bar closure covers all businesses with a Series 6 or 7 liquor licenses, which closes the "beer nuts" loophole in Ducey's earlier order that allowed many bars to stay open if they provided any sort of food for sale. These businesses will be able to offer take-out service.
The state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control will stop issuing special event licenses until July 27.
"Arm yourself with a mask; it's your best defense against this virus," he said at the end of his press conference, using a dollop of hand sanitizer and donning a plain black face mask.
The delay in the back-to-school date applies to in-person classroom instruction. Local school districts and charter schools will be allowed to conduct distance learning before that date if they so choose.