On the same day he announced increased steps to open the state, Governor Doug Ducey announced the retirement of one of the key players in state’s efforts to tackle the pandemic, Maj. Gen. Michael T. McGuire. McGuire serves on the Governor’s cabinet as both the Director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs and as the Adjutant General for the state.
“General McGuire’s solid leadership and expertise has been critical, especially during the COVID-19 emergency response,” said Governor Ducey in the announcement. “Arizona is grateful for General McGuire’s exceptional service to the state and nation.”
McGuire has served in the role since 2013. He planned to retire last year but extended his service because of the pandemic. His last day will be April 10.
McGuire is responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of a nearly 8,300-member department, which includes the Arizona’s Army and Air National Guard, Joint Programs, and the Division of Emergency Management.
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.”
The governor said his team, relying on the metrics developed by the CDC, have determined that 12 of Arizona’s 15 counties “are in phases where all schools are safe to open, including in the state’s two largest counties, Maricopa and Pima.”
Ducey’s order requires schools to return to in-person learning by March 15, or after Spring Break.
The order includes an exception for middle and high schools located in counties with “high” transmission of COVID-19, as defined by the CDC — which currently includes just three Arizona counties: Coconino, Yavapai, and Pinal.
While the governor recognizes the decision may be controversial, he noted in his announcement that the “CDC is clear that there is a safe pathway for all schools to open at any transmission level, and to stay open if they implement proper mitigation strategies. A student may continue participating in virtual instruction if their parent or guardian chooses so.”
Scot Mussi, President of the Free Enterprise Club said that Ducey’s announcement “is a major step in the right direction.”
“Arizona’s children have been out of school for far too long,” said Mussi. “The Club commends Governor Ducey for standing with parents and students and taking action today that follows the science. ”
“Since August of 2020, I have supported schools reopening and remaining open,” said Arizona State Rep. Beverly Pingerelli, who is also a member of the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board. “The scientists were telling us that our younger population was significantly safer than our older populations and we had appropriate precautions in place. And we know students learn best when they’re in a classroom setting. Teachers using sick outs to protest is not acceptable in my view, particularly when they have had priority access to the Covid vaccines and many I’ve spoken to have already been vaccinated.”
“175 experts — mostly pediatricians focused on public health — largely agreed that it was safe enough for schools to be open to elementary students for full-time and in-person instruction now.”https://t.co/bTxrXUlztzhttps://t.co/He7Fv2Bby0