Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Tuesday, May 5: AZ Cases Top 9K; 395 Now Dead After Contracting Virus; Ducey Says Barbers Can Cut Hair This Friday, Restaurants Can Reopen Next Week

Posted By on Tue, May 5, 2020 at 9:06 AM

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona topped 9,000 as of Tuesday, May 5, according to the morning report from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County had 1,379 of the states’ 9,305 confirmed cases.

The coronavirus had killed 395 people statewide, including 105 in Pima County, according to the report.

In Maricopa County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had risen to 4,929.

Although the state began a “testing blitz” over the weekend, Arizona lags other states in testing for COVID-19. Because symptoms can take as long as two weeks to appear after exposure to the virus (while some people can remain entirely asymptomatic), health officials continue to urge the public to avoid unnecessary trips and gatherings of more than 10 people and have advised people to cover their faces with masks in public.

Arizona remains under a stay-at-home order through May 15, but Gov. Doug Ducey has modified his emergency declaration. Many stores have reopened with curbside and delivery business. Customers will be able to browse inside stores and get haircuts beginning on Friday, while restaurants can begin serving customers next week. Ducey has set up various new regulations, including requirements to wear masks and a heightened cleaning regimen.

People are still advised to limit contact and many businesses must remain closed, but Ducey said he wanted the state’s economy to gradually reopen.

“These habits we've acquired over the last 45 days will not be with us forever, but they will be with us for the time being,” Ducey said.

Ducey said that he will decide how to move forward based on what future testing shows regarding the spread of the virus, but explained it would be a gradual reopening of businesses now closed.

Ducey's decision has won support from both Democrats and business leaders.

“The revisions put forth by the governor breathe needed oxygen into our retail sector," said Glenn Hamer, president and CEO Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry. "Stores that sell essential goods have proven already that they can operate safely, and we look forward to more retailers doing the same."

But some Republican lawmakers called for Ducey end the stay-at-home order now.

Rep. Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley) said quarantine should be only for people who are currently sick or showing symptoms of being sick.

He called Ducey’s extension of the stay-at-home order “wholly unacceptable” and said he and other state lawmakers are planning to draft a ballot initiative in response to what they see as government overreach.

“That’ll be next year’s session, if we have the opportunity,” Finchem said. “It will limit the authority of mayors and future governors to wholesale shut down the economy and deprive people of their sustenance and their ability to feed their families.”

Finchem said the steps Ducey took cannot be justified considering a lack of meaningful data on the virus. He also wants to explore the possibility of furloughing some state government employees.

“If he’s going to define nonessential businesses, then we also need to take a close look at nonessential government functions,” Finchem said.

Rep Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) told Ducey via Twitter that “threatening my constituents with jail time is the last straw” and added that she “will be using all options to bring Arizona back into a Constitutional state.”

She called for lawmakers to return to the Capitol and vote to end Ducey’s declared state of emergency.

Lawmakers temporarily adjourned the session in March and have not returned to the Capitol since.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said last week that Ducey was moving in the right direction.

“I am encouraged by Governor Ducey’s extension of his ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected’ Executive Order and applaud his measured approach,” Romero said in a prepared statement last week. “These are difficult but necessary decisions that no elected official relishes making.”

But Romero cautioned last week against lifting the stay-at-home order before officials could demonstrate that Tucsonans are safe from COVID-19 in the workplace and the marketplace.

"What I'm concerned about is how we're going to physically distance and how we're going to deal with touchpoints that happen at restaurants," Romero said. "But I'm willing to move in that direction for the benefit of small business owners in the city of Tucson."

Romero spokesman Nate Sigal said last night that Romero did not yet have a comment on yesterday’s announcement allowing restaurants to reopen next week.

Under the stay-at-home order, Arizonans have been able to shop for groceries, medical and household needs, and pet supplies. They can also go work, pick up a take-out meal from a restaurant, travel to take care of a family member, friend, or pet, and can still go walking, hiking, biking, and golfing, provided that they adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Despite the criticism from his own party, a late April poll by Public Opinion Strategies showed that most Arizonans approved of the effort to slow the outbreak. Roughly six in 10 voters thought his approach had been “just about right,” while 29 percent said he had “not gone far enough” and just 8 percent said he had “gone too far,” according to the poll of 600 registered voters.

Ducey had already announced that under certain circumstances, hospitals could return to performing elective surgeries, which had been put on hold over concern of a wave of COVID-19 cases overwhelming health care facilities. The ban on those elective surgeries had caused major financial losses for hospitals as they emptied rooms to prepare for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases that has not appeared.

The outbreak has hammered Arizona's economy, with more than 400,000 people applying for unemployment in recent weeks. State budget forecasters warned lawmakers earlier this month that the state is facing a budget deficit of $1.1 billion in the next fiscal year, which begins in July. But they cautioned that the uncertainty surrounding the outbreak means they could be wrong by $500 million in either direction.

UA President Robert C. Robbins said last week that the UA planned to resume face-to-face classes in the fall.

Robbins has warned that a return to normal life could months away—or longer. “Until there's a vaccine, we’re never going to be completely risk-free,” Robbins said in March. “That’s probably a year at least before we would have a vaccine.”

Robbins also said that the UA was bracing for the possibility that many out-of-state and international students might not return to campus in the fall because of the outbreak, which could lead to financial calamity for the university as the bulk of the university’s tuition revenue comes from those students.

Visitors from areas with major community spread of COVID-19—New York, New Jersey and Connecticut under the current restrictions—must still enter quarantine for two weeks if they come to Arizona, under an executive order issued by Ducey.

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 facemask 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 tucsoneditor@tucsonlocalmedia.com.

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