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Arizona Gov. Ducey Ending Pandemic Occupancy Limits For Businesses

By Rocio Hernandez, Vaughan Jones
Published: Friday, March 5, 2021 - 1:17pm
Updated: Monday, April 19, 2021 - 12:53pm

Doug Ducey
Gov. Doug Ducey/Facebook
Gov. Doug Ducey gives a press conference on Dec. 16, 2020.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has issued a new executive order that lifts pandemic occupancy limits on businesses.

Under the executive order, occupancy percentage limitations will expire for businesses such as restaurants, gyms, theaters and bars.

Dr. Cara Christ, the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the risk of this action should be low since physical distancing and mask wearing protocols for businesses still remain in place.

“As long as people are maintaining that 6 feet of distance and wearing masks at all times except when actively eating or drinking we felt with the current community transmission that would reduce occupancy requirements,” she said.

And Christ added that previous spikes have been driven by private gatherings where people felt comfortable ignoring masking and physical distancing guidance.

The order also loosens restrictions for spring training and other professional sporting events.

This announcement comes after the state has distributed more than 2 million vaccines doses, and seen a decline of COIVD-19 over the past seven weeks, Ducey said in a statement.

“Like the rest of the country, Arizona has made its way out of the winter surge of cases. And we are leading the nation in the vaccination roll out,” he said. “Today’s announcement is a measured approach; we are not in the clear yet. We need to continue practicing personal responsibility. Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay home when you’re sick and wash your hands frequently.”

It also comes days after Ducey ordered schools to resume in-person learning, and Texas lifted its statewide mask mandate.

Under this executive order, mayors and local entities will still be precluded from implementing extreme measures that shut down businesses.

What The New Order Will Look Like For Businesses

Jack Barz, the co-owner of Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa, says the order will increase the capacity of his restaurant, but full seating still isn’t possible.

“While the occupancy restrictions have been lifted, with the 6-foot rule still in place that we have to follow, the social-distancing guidelines, it really doesn’t help us that much,” Barz said.

Barz says the new maximum capacity for his restaurant, while maintaining social-distancing guidelines, is 425 people. Organ Stop Pizza holds about 700 people at full occupancy, and had been limited to 250 before Ducey’s latest order.

interior of mostly empty restaurant
Organ Stop Pizza
Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa in July 2020.

Former Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble says the order doesn’t actually change the way many businesses have been running.

“People have asked me, ‘What do you think this is gonna do to the trajectory of cases in Arizona?’ and I say it’s not gonna change anything, because these were never being enforced to begin with,” Humble said.

The order says that physical distancing and mask protocols remain in place for businesses. It also states that spring training and other professional sporting events can take place with mitigation measures, but Humble says it’s unclear whether capacity limits can be increased.

Barz says he looks forward to serving the tourists brought in by spring training, but that his restaurant’s sales numbers are still far below what they would be in a normal year.

For stadiums, Christ imagines that they won’t be packed with fans just yet either. She used the Arizona Diamondbacks as an example.

“They are going to do seating pods that seat small groups together with a minimum of 6 feet in between groups and you will see a much reduced capacity. I think that 6-foot pod seating put them at about 25%,” she said.

The Diamondbacks are also planning touchless interactions between staff and patrons, and controlling the flow of traffic, Christ added.

→ Get The Latest News On COVID-19 In Arizona

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