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Arizona governor allows restaurants to reopen next week

May 5, 2020 GMT
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Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at a news conference regarding the latest updates on the coronavirus Monday, May 4, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
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Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at a news conference regarding the latest updates on the coronavirus Monday, May 4, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

PHOENIX (AP) — Restaurants can reopen next week in Arizona amid a downward trend in coronavirus cases and other measurements laid out by federal officials, Gov. Doug Ducey announced Monday.

Ducey said restaurants can open next Monday and salons and barber shops can open this Friday The businesses will need enhanced sanitation and social distancing to open their doors. Ducey is also considering allowing some food establishments that are licensed as bars to open as well.

The decisions came less than a week after the Republican governor extended his stay-home order until May 15. The order remains in place, although closed retail businesses were allowed to start curbside sales Monday and can resume full in-store sales Friday.

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He said he considered a downward trajectory in the percentage of positive tests along with declines in hospital visits for coronavirus symptoms in making his decision on re-openings.

“We have capacity, in hospital beds, in ICU’s, in ventilators — Arizona is prepared,” Ducey said. “We are prepared on all these fronts and we have good trends in our symptoms and our cases.”

The governor has been hammered by some Republican lawmakers, who were angered at the extended closure order because the economy has tanked. The state’s social service agency reported Monday that an additional 43,087 people filed new unemployment insurance claims last week, bringing the seven week total since layoffs surged to nearly 514,000. That’s 14% of Arizona’s workforce.

Two of 15 county sheriffs said last week they would not enforce his extended closure orders.

Ducey called them “outliers” Monday and said he was not reacting to the pressure.

“The decisions we are disclosing today are safe — and that is why I am disclosing them,” he said.

The announcement came as the state reported 279 new coronavirus cases and no new deaths. It was the second consecutive Monday with no reported deaths, which likely reflects a reporting delay over the weekend. Officials say there are now at least 8,919 confirmed cases and 362 deaths.

The state Department of Health Services reported an uptick in testing, with more than 4,100 new tests. The figure does not fully reflect the results from a weekend testing blitz around the state, said Holly Poynter, a department spokeswoman. Ducey hopes to test 10,000 to 20,000 people on each of three weekends.

Restrictions on businesses began to ease Monday as small retailers deemed nonessential were allowed to open for curbside service, delivery and appointments. Those businesses will be allowed to welcome customers inside starting Friday with social distancing and cleaning protocols.

Reopening restaurants won’t face any limit on the number of customers they can serve, though they’ll be required to maintain social distancing between tables and will be prohibited from serving parties larger than 10.

Ducey said other businesses and facilities, including gyms and swimming pools, will be allowed to open later. He said he’s still discussing the best dates and safety protocols with industry representatives. Movie theaters have asked to reopen on July 15 and don’t expect film studios to release movies before then, he said.

Even with the additional businesses allowed to open, Ducey’s stay-at-home order remains in effect until May 15, and he urged people to stay home when possible.

“Get your hair cut, get something to eat, and head home,” Ducey said. “That’s where it’s safest.”

A residential treatment center for teenage girls with emotional or behavioral problems reported an outbreak on its campus, according to a statement shared by the Yavapai County public health department. The Mingus Mountain Academy did not say how many people were infected but said so far, none had shown severe symptoms.

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Infected students and staff have been isolated, and others are being closely watched for symptoms, the statement said. The school is located on national forest land about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Prescott.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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Christie reported from Glendale.

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