Arizona unveils reopening plan for bars, gyms, water parks

August 10, 2020 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — Gyms, bars and water parks in Arizona that were ordered closed six weeks ago by Gov. Doug Ducey due to the pandemic will be able to reopen at a limited capacity and with health precautions once the spread of the virus within their county is downgraded to moderate or minimal, state officials said Monday.

The Ducey administration unveiled the standards as the state’s coronavirus outbreak has slowed and it faces a Tuesday deadline for creating an application process for reopening gyms.

Some counties have already reached the moderate spread phase, such as Yavapai County, while Maricopa and Pima counties are weeks away from reaching that point.

Once a county reaches the moderate phase, gyms can open at 25% capacity and bars that covert to providing restaurant services can reopen at 50% capacity. Bars and nightclubs that don’t want to convert to restaurant services must remain closed for the foreseeable future.

The factors that will be considered are whether a county has fewer than 100 new cases per 100,000 people; a rate of positive tests that is 10% or less; and fewer than 10% of hospital visits for COVID-like symptoms.

As those metrics further improve, businesses can increase their capacity, but Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona’s top public health official, said they may not be able to completely return to normal operations until there is a vaccine.

“We do know that these (businesses) are high risk for transmission, so that’s why we wanted to keep them at a lower occupancy,” Christ said.

Last week, a judge ordered the Ducey administration to create an application process for the reopening of gyms. The judge had ruled that the governor’s shutdown order violated the due process rights of health clubs and said delaying creation of application procedures to reopen their businesses could further harm their rights as they suffer staggering financial losses.

In other developments, officials reported 600 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases with four more deaths on Monday.

The Arizona Department of Health Services’ latest figures increased the state’s total confirmed COVID-19 cases to 187,523 and the death toll to 4,154.

It was the second straight day that fewer than 1,000 new cases have been reported. The last time new cases numbered in the triple digits was June 8.

The state reported 625 new cases on June 29, but a reporting partner missed the deadline to be included in the cases that day.

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The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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

COVID-19 hospitalizations and related usage of intensive care beds and ventilators in Arizona continued a downward trend that started in mid-July.

Meanwhile, the state is continuing its burgeoning efforts to boost contact tracing. There has been less contact tracing in Arizona than in some other areas.

Maricopa County, which has 4.5 million residents and includes Phoenix, continues to hire case investigators for contact tracing. County spokesman Ron Coleman said 87 people have started on the investigations team since a hiring surge was launched in May.

In comparison, New York City has over 3,000 contact tracers working on COVID-19 cases after hiring for a tracing ramp-up that began in June. Los Angeles County last month said it had 1,600 contact tracers working and another 900 in training.

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Associated Press writer Anita Snow contributed to this report.