Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday issued a statewide “stay-at-home” order to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, preventing Arizonans from leaving their residences except for food, medicine and other “essential activities.”
The directive, which also allows for outdoor exercise, will take effect upon close of business Tuesday and apply through at least April 30.
“Already, things have shut down to a large degree,” the Republican leader said at an afternoon press briefing, with Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ at his side. “They’re going to shut down even further.”
Ducey indicated he did not consider the mandate a “shelter-in-place” order, however, saying he’d reserve that phrasefor nuclear attacks or active shooter situations.
“Our goal here is to protect the lives of those we love most and to ensure the health care system has the capacity to provide them with the care and comfort they deserve,” he said.
“We want people to stay at home.”
What the order says
Ducey’s order defines “essential services” more broadly than similar directives issued in other states, including hair salons, golf courses and pawn shops in addition to staples like grocery stores and pharmacies.
It also says “non-essential businesses may continue to operate those activities that do not require in-person, on-site transactions” and encourages businesses to maintain at least basic operations.
Those who work from home or are self-employed in businesses without face-to-face interaction can keep working, too, according to the order. And people who need to care for family members in other households can do so.
Public transportation may continue operating, but riders can use it only for essential activities and must maintain six feet of distance between themselves and others.
The order permits “walking, hiking, running, biking or golfing” as well, if appropriate “physical distancing practices are used.” Ducey said state officials “realize that people are going to need an outlet, and there’s a way to do it in a safe way.”
In terms of enforcement, the order does not require people to “provide documentation or proof … to justify their activities.”
It allows officials to issue warnings before citing someone, but those who ignore warnings could face a Class 1 misdemeanor. Get the Law & Order newsletter in your inbox.
Ducey’s order came just a week after he said the state was “not there yet” in terms of requiring residents to stay at home.
At the time, he’d said other states had been hit harder and faster, giving Arizona time and valuable information to prepare.
Since then, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arizona has topped 1,000, with at least 20 deaths reported.Public health experts believe the state’s true numbers are much higher, given limited testing.
As the disease spread, Arizonans from doctors to mayors upped the pressure on Ducey to take more drastic containment measures, pointing to the 25-plus other U.S. states that already had restricted residents’ movements.
“We don’t need to imagine what the consequences of inaction will be,” Democratic Majority Leader Charlene Fernandez, a state representative from Yuma, wrote in a letter to the governor Thursday. “We can see it in other hard-hit communities around the country and the world.”
Christ, the DHS director, said Monday that state health officials had examined several data points before recommending Ducey issue the stay-at-home order, “including the number of cases, the spread of the virus through our communities and the impact on our hospitals.”
“Arizona, much like the rest of the nation continues to see an increase in cases and deaths,” she said. “I don’t make this recommendation lightly.”
Critics: Order doesn’t go far enough
Still, Ducey took a less dire tone Monday than other governors have when issuing shelter-in-place orders.
He said he still believes Arizona is in “a pretty good position right now,” but “the objective here is to continue to mitigate and to slow the spread.”
The Health System Alliance of Arizona applauded the measure in a statement, saying it would “slow down the spread of COVID-19 and prevent a situation where our health care systems are overwhelmed with patients.”
The Arizona Medical Association was also complimentary, saying physicians “appreciate the significance of what this decision means for the safety, security, and economic vitality of the state.”
But if the order was meant to be a significant step in the state’s response to the new coronavirus, many officials greeted the news with a shrug.
Republican lawmakers said the governor’s measure seemed to make little, if any, difference, while Democrats argued it didn’t go far enough.
“Basically, nothing has changed from yesterday except more hysteria,” House Majority Leader Warren Petersen, R-Mesa, posted on Twitter. Sen. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, said the order had “no teeth.”
City leaders also criticized Ducey for the section of his order forbidding counties and municipalities from making rules or regulations that conflict with his decree. Mayors from Phoenix, Flagstaff, Tucson and other cities had previously tried to take matters into their own hands after slamming the governor for not being more aggressive.
During a Phoenix City Council meeting that followed Ducey’s announcement, officials voted to close down playgrounds, basketball courts and other recreational facilities, arguing they had the authority to do so because they couldn’t ensure appropriate distancing between users.
“Essential services during #COVID19 are not golf and beauty salons,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said on Twitter. “They are first responders, grocers, pharmacists, and few others.”
Text with our coronavirus team
Sign up with your cellphone number below, and we’ll send you text updates on coronavirus in Arizona. You can also text us story ideas and questions. We promise not to use your number for anything else.
Services exempted from Ducey’s order
According to the governor, essential services include:
- Health care and public health operations.
- Services for elderly people, those with developmental disabilities, foster and adoption children and individuals experiencing homelessness.
- Infrastructure operation, such as food production, utility operators, construction and internet providers.
- First responders and other emergency personnel.
- Grocery stores and pharmacies.
- Veterinary care.
- Outdoor recreation.
- Charities and social service organizations, including nonprofits and food banks.
- Media organizations.
- Gas stations and other transportation-related businesses.
- Banks and credit unions.
- Hardware and supply stores.
- “Critical trades,” such as plumbers, electricians, cleaning, sanitation and security.
- Shipping and mail services.
- Educational institutions.
- Laundry services.
- Restaurants, for takeout and delivery.
- Suppliers for essential businesses.
- Distributors that enable telework.
- Airlines, taxis and ride-sharing services.
- Residential facilities and shelters.
- Legal, real estate and accounting services.
- Day-care centers for employees of essential businesses.
- Manufacturers and distributors of “critical products.”
- Funeral services.