As the number of COVID-19 cases in Pima County continues to rise each day, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to extend their mandate on the closure of all movie theaters, gyms, restaurants, bars and other places where people gather in unincorporated parts of the county. Restaurants are still allowed to operate through take-out or drive-thru service only.
The closure was supposed to last until Tuesday, March 31, but the supervisors held an emergency meeting today to extend it to Friday, April 10.
Democratic Supervisors Richard Elías, Sharon Bronson and Ramón Valadez voted in favor, while Republican Supervisors Ally Miller and Steve Christy voted against it.
The move follows Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman's order to close all K-12 public schools through April 10.
Miller and Christy were opposed to the idea of closing businesses last week. They called the measure "draconian" and said it would cause unnecessary panic within the community.
At today's meeting, Christy said he acknowledges the very real health crisis at hand, but talked about a crisis within the small business community.
"Why are we choosing that date other than it's the governor's?" Christy said. "It's obvious that the April 10 deadline is going to probably be asked to be extended again. These deadlines made only to be extended cause damaging uncertainty to business."
He called for finding "creative ways" to get people back to work. Miller asked if restaurants could be reopened but have their capacities lowered to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
"I understand the need for a sense of security in these kinds of decisions, but we are in uncharted territory," Elías said. "And that makes it very difficult and there is not data we can point to that gives us definitive answers in every single case."
Elías said he wanted to send a letter to the governor urging a shelter-in-place order for the entire state. Tucson Mayor Regina Romero made a similar statement on Tuesday. Christy said this was a "petty" and "political" move. Supervisor Ramón Valadez said he was conflicted about that decision because he didn't believe it would have a positive impact until health experts deem a shelter-in-place measure necessary.
Ultimately, the board voted 4-1 to send a letter to the governor urging he consider "all options, including shelter-in-place" for the statewide population.
Dr. Bob England, the interim director of the Pima County Health Department, said the public should assume that COVID-19 is all over the community, and any public gathering puts them at risk of infection.
"The numbers we have more reflect the availability of testing, or the lack thereof than they do the reality of whats going on right now," Dr. England said.
He reported to the board that 13 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 and 4 of them are in intensive care units.
The board's order does not affect grocery stories, pharmacies, food banks, banks and some cafeterias located inside hospitals, nursing homes or food vendors at Tucson International Airport.
The declaration also encourages churches and houses of worship to limit gatherings on their premises.
In addition, the board approved weekly meetings to be held on Thursdays at 9 a.m. for discussion on the COVID-19 crisis with emergency meetings scheduled when needed.
Dr. England said they are currently looking into renting motel space to house the county's homeless population because of the heightened public health risks they face.
In his morning YouTube update on the outbreak, England said the county was desperately short of personal protection equipment for healthcare workers
, despite receiving a shipment from the state.
"It was just a pathetic drop in the bucket compared to the need," England said
A total of 508 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Arizona on Thursday, March 25, according to the morning report from the Arizona Department of Health Services. This shows an increase of 107 cases from yesterday's 401.
There are now 75 confirmed cases in Pima County. The virus has killed 8 people in Arizona, including a Pima County woman in her 50s who had underlying health conditions.
In Maricopa County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 299, with 48 more cases being reported than yesterday.
Health and government officials have urged the public to avoid unnecessary trips and gatherings of more than 10 people. They warn that the extremely contagious virus is rapidly spreading in the community. Symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear, so people can pass COVID-19 without realizing they have been infected with it. Some people remain entirely asymptotic but are carriers.
Here's a list of places where school districts are providing free meals for kids during the statewide closure
. And here's a list of some educational resources
that parents can turn to while their kids are at home.
Here’s a partial list of restaurants that are offering take-out and delivery services
The closures and recommendations to avoid shopping and commerce have hammered the local economy. Small businesses are teetering on the edge and layoffs are skyrocketing. If you need assistance finding a job, here are some resources
. If you need help stocking your kitchen, you can find food banks and pantries here
Courts have rescheduled most hearings to avoid spreading the virus and the release of some nonviolent offenders from Pima County Jail
is in the works.
In the face of the spreading virus, Gov. Doug Ducey halted to evictions for 120 days; ordered bars, gyms and theaters to be closed in any county with confirmed COVID-19 cases; halted all elective surgery to keep hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients; loosened regulations to make telemedicine more available and increase eligibility for AHCCCS, the state's Medicaid program; and activated the National Guard to assist in grocery stores as Arizonans clear the shelves.
COVID-19 symptoms typically occur two to 14 days after exposure, and include headache, fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. However, some cases of the virus are entirely asymptomatic. Practices to avoid infection include social distancing (of at least six feet), washing your hands, avoiding unnecessary trips and not touching your face. COVID-19 can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on stainless steel and plastic surfaces up to three days.
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, speak with a healthcare provider for medical advice. According to the CDC, people who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to recover at home. Stay at home and avoid public transportation, but stay in touch with your doctor. If you do leave your home, wear a face mask and clean your hands often. If you develop more severe symptoms (persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, bluish lips) get medical attention immediately. Your local health authorities will give instructions on checking your symptoms and reporting information.
Have you caught COVID-19? Are you feeling ill? Is your small business struggling to make it? Have you lost your job as a result of the outbreak? Are you struggling to manage your kids while schools are closed? Tell us your COVID-19 stories. Send an email or photo to email@example.com.