Arizona mayors slam Ducey edict keeping golf courses open
PHOENIX (AP) — Municipal leaders criticized Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey Tuesday over his decision to classify some businesses like golf courses as “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayors of five different cities, including Tucson and Flagstaff, sent Republican Gov. Doug Ducey a letter saying his executive order should not have included golf courses and payday lenders in the definition of “essential services” that cannot be shut down in response to the outbreak. They also requested a statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.
Ducey agreed to pause evictions for 120 days for renters who are quarantining or struggling from the economic fallout. To qualify, renters must provide documentation that they’ve been ordered to quarantine, have a health condition that leaves them vulnerable or suffered a substantial income loss. They’ll also have to acknowledge in writing that their lease terms haven’t changed.
On Monday, Ducey outlined an expansive list of essential services that cities and counties are prohibited from shuttering. His action came after mayors took the lead in closing bars and gyms and prohibiting dine-in service at restaurants.
Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for Ducey, sidestepped questions about why the list includes the state’s estimated 300 golf courses. “This order is about protecting public health and preserving critical financial lifelines for many communities across our state,” he said in an email.
Ducey was initially criticized by Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, for only ordering the closures of schools but seeming to drag his feet on businesses. The governor later adopted his own restrictions on businesses in all counties with confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The mayors of Tucson, Flagstaff, Tolleson, Somerton and Winslow asked for “clear and direct guidance” on the closure of nonessential services and asked for “assurance that no Arizonan loses their home due to the economic hardship imposed by COVID-19.”
“We acknowledge that these are painful decisions with severe economic repercussions, but immediate action will save lives,” the mayors wrote.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said Ducey’s order gives the governor sole authority over closures and blocks cities from putting limits on crowded parks, golf courses and beauty salons.
While golf courses are open, some national parks are closed, and some facilities at others have been shut. National forests in northern and eastern Arizona, and outside the Phoenix metro area announced this week the closure of picnic sites, day-use areas and developed campgrounds. Some already had suspended the rental of cabins. Grand Canyon National Park suspended private, commercial and research trips on the Colorado River, starting Tuesday until late May.
Arizona had at least 326 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health Services. That is a jump of nearly 100 from a day earlier.
There also was a sixth death reported — a Coconino County man in his 50s with an underlying health condition.
Of the previous five deaths, no details were given by health officials about the last three. The other two were already reported to both be men above age 50 with underlying health conditions.
Navajo Nation officials announced the discovery of 10 more cases, bringing the total to 49 with most in Arizona and a few in New Mexico. The tribe has instituted a “stay-at-home” order as well and told nonessential businesses to temporarily close.
Northern Arizona University announced Tuesday that it was canceling its spring commencement ceremonies. School officials are inviting all May graduates — nearly 6,000 of them — to walk in a special Dec. 12 ceremony.
As worry about resources for a growing patient toll grows, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone on Tuesday suggested retrofitting a new Phoenix jail as a temporary medical clinic for the community if hospital bed space becomes scarce. The 1,500-bed jail hasn’t yet opened.
For most people, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, older adults and people with health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Associated Press writers Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix and Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Arizona, contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to say that while golf courses are open, some national parks are closed, and some facilities at others have been shut.