By Terri Jo Neff
Gov. Doug Ducey has issued a lot of statements during his time in office, but the one he made Friday to allow most businesses across Arizona to reopen without capacity restrictions may be the most welcome of all.
“We’ve learned a lot over the past year,” Ducey said in his announcement. “Our businesses have done an excellent job at responding to this pandemic in a safe and responsible way. We will always admire the sacrifice they and their employees have made and their vigilance to protect against the virus.”
For businesses, physical distancing and mask protocols must still remain in place. In addition, Ducey will continue to order that mayor, counties, and municipalities cannot implement “extreme measures” over and above the state’s order.
Ducey and other state officials point to seven weeks of declining new COVID19 cases in Arizona, and the distribution of more than 2 million vaccines. Friday’s announcement that capacity restrictions will be removed for restaurants, gyms, theaters, water parks, bowling alleys, and bars providing dine-in service came just days after the Arizona Free Enterprise Club called for a reopening sooner than later.
The AFEC’s March 2 statement noted Arizonans were on “day 351” of what was announced at the time as a 15-day closure effort to show the spread of COVID19, but instead many businesses were still under very restrictive capacity limits…”
Several bills introduced this legislative session aimed to help Arizonans recapture a sense of normalcy by getting kids back to school and employees back to work. Rep. Bret Roberts (R-LD14) has sponsored or co-sponsored several of those bills, including one that defines the limits of a governor’s emergency powers.
Roberts said he is glad Ducey made the announcement but is mindful that more is needed.
“I would prefer we repeal it all in one fell swoop as other states are doing,” Roberts said. “However, I am happy to see were moving in that direction albeit incrementally. It’s a good first step…but we need to do more.”
Ducey’s new order will likely also have a huge impact on Arizona’s struggling tourism industry. He will now allow Major League Baseball and other major sports organizations to seek approval from the Arizona Department of Health Services of a crowd-public health plan that demonstrates implementation of safety precautions and physical distancing.
“Today’s announcement is a measured approach; we are not in the clear yet,” Ducey added. “We need to continue practicing personal responsibility.”