Shutdowns And Closures Continue Across The State As Coronavirus Cases Soar
The COVID-19 virus continues to afflict Arizona’s Native American communities. In the final week of June, the White Mountain Apache Tribe of Eastern Arizona announced a two-week closure of the reservation that will include an order preventing people from leaving their yards and a ban on the use of alcohol through the end of 2020.
These measures are in response to a spike in COVID cases that have seen an eighth of its 13,500 members test positive.
Statewide, we are seeing a new record high. The state’s Department of Health Services recorded 4,878 new cases July 1, bringing the number of in-state cases to 84,092.
As of July 1, 1,720 Arizonans have died of COVID-related illness, with 88 of those deaths having been reported in the last day.
Gov. Doug Ducey’s latest order closing bars, gyms and other businesses for the next month is already being challenged as some say they won’t comply.
Mountainside Fitness CEO Tom Hatten was the first to loudly declare his opposition.
Hatten called a press conference June 29 to announce he was filing a lawsuit to demand a stay on the order. He told reporters it wasn’t just about gyms but about all businesses that could suddenly see themselves shut down without — according to him — evidence that the closures will make a difference.
“I was told from the Governor’s Office before I walked in here that they were frustrated because members weren’t wearing masks," Hatten said. "I don’t think you can wear masks when you’re eating dinner.”
Hatten said Ducey arbitrarily chose gyms to appear as if he were doing something to stop the spread of the virus. But if the governor were serious about defeating COVID-19, Hatten said he would just close everything.
“If it’s truly as bad as what we’re being told, I don’t think health clubs closing tomorrow is going to solve the problem. I don’t think tubing is going to solve the problem. And I don’t think closing a movie theater that hasn’t been open is going to solve the problem," Hatten said.
Mountainside Fitness did open its gyms June 30 — and ultimately was cited for the violation. Other clubs have vowed to remain open and are encouraging members to contact the Governor’s Office to demand they be allowed to return.
But some saw the governor’s mandate differently.
Lissa Druss is a spokesperson for Riot Hospitality Group. She says the management company with properties in Scottsdale and Tempe supports the governor’s decision.
“Right now, it is the absolute right thing to do — is to be closed — until we know where this is going," Druss said.
Several Riot Hospitality locations have been among bars recently seen packed with patrons, including Riot House in Old Town Scottsdale, which was charged for allegedly failing to enforce safety guidelines.
But Druss says the group shut down Riot House and two other Old Town Scottsdale locations even before the governor’s order
“Unfortunately, everyone across the country that has had spikes in COVID are living through these temporary quasi-shutdown periods to do what they can to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID," Druss said.
This is the new normal, she says, and that means lots of change — sometimes on short notice.