As coronavirus positivity test rates grow and hospitals inch toward capacity, Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday announced the closure of gyms and bars and put off the first day of school until at least Aug. 17.
"We can’t be under any illusion that this virus will go away on its own," Ducey said, adding he expects numbers next week to look worse. "Over time, we’ll see reductions and not increases. That’s the goal. It will not happen overnight, but it will happen.”
Ducey said the state would err on the side of caution and protecting lives before he announced the renewed measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Effective at 8 p.m. Monday, bars, gyms, movie theaters, waterparks and tubing venues will shut down until July 27, according to an Executive Order signed Monday. That decision will be reviewed every two weeks after that.
Also in the Executive Order:
•Organized public events of 50 or are prohibited unless approved by the city, town or county, with proper precautions. Religious and political gatherings are protected by the Constitution and don't fall under the order.
•Venues such as hotels must prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people in or near swimming pools.
•Privately owned pools in public areas, which would include HOAs, planned communities and multi-housing complexes, can remain open as long as they have signage reminding people to social distance and that groups of 10 or more should not congregate. However, larger groups aren't expressly prohibited in the order.
•Delayed the first day of school to Aug. 17, and will continue to reassess whether to push back the date.
•Ducey said local health department officials would enforce the executive order and determine penalties.
•The state liquor department will cease issuing special-event licenses.
He also announced that the state is partnering with AARP to provide grants to assisted living facilities for mobile devices to help keep residents connected with family and friends. Ducey said each facility would receive up to $10,000.
Ducey said the positivity test rate continues to increase statewide, and added it would take time for the renewed closures to have a positive effect.
Ducey also reiterated the importance of wearing masks in public, social distancing, staying home and handwashing. However, he fell short of a statewide mandate requiring their use in public.