PHOENIX - During a news conference, Governor Doug Ducey announced that Arizona's stay-at-home order will be extended to May 15, with modifications.
According to an executive order issued to amend the original stay-at-home order, officially titled as the "Stay home, Stay healthy, Stay connected" policy, retailers not classified as an essential business may, starting May 4, operate through delivery service and other means that do not entail in-store sales.
On May 8, non-essential retailers can sell items to customers in-store.
Plans will also be announced next week on a return to dine-in operations for restaurants. Gov. Ducey did say during the news conference that in a best-case scenario, restaurants could reopen by May 12.
"We’re going to return to physical health and economic health the Arizona way," Gov. Ducey said. "It will be gradual and phased in."
The executive order states no county, city, or town may issue orders, rules, or regulations that conflict with the executive order.
The Republican governor is holding the news conference just one day prior to the original expiration date of his stay-at-home order that started March 31.
Gov. Ducey said the return to normalcy will be gradual and phased in, based on CDC and health expert recommendations through May and June, and will balance public health and returning stronger.
On April 22, Ducey said elective surgeries could continue starting on May 1. 1,090 establishments are eligible to resume surgeries, according to Gov. Ducey on Wednesday.
Wednesday's announcement came just after the Arizona Department of Health Services confirmed 18 additional COVID-19 deaths. As of April 29, Arizona has 7,202 cases and 304 deaths.
During the news conference, the Governor also reminded anyone thinking about violating the order that it could result a fine, possible jail time, or place a liquor license risk.
Gov. Ducet's words didn’t sit well with state rep Kelly Townsend, who issued a tweet on the issue.
Protesters demand state's reopening
Protests took place outside of the State Capitol multiple times in April in calls for Ducey to reopen the state.
"Anybody who has a job sees that job as essential. Especially if it feeds their family," said Gov. Ducey. "Eventually, we’re gonna turn that dial and feed that light for our economy."
However, Ducey said during a press conference on April 22 that he would not be ready to take further action until he could see how COVID-19 cases progressed this week.
“We do not want to lose the ground that we have gained,” Gov. Ducey said. “I want to get back to where we were as much as anybody in the state. But I want to do it in a safe and healthy way.”
While many local businesses have already taken steps in preparation for reopening, others are unsure about its potential consequences.
Restaurant owners react to extension
Prior to Gov. Ducey's announcement on Wednesday, Steve Chucri, president of the Arizona Restaurant Association, said many restaurants will be not ready to reopen if the governor lifts the stay-at-home order.
Chucri said most eateries would likely open closer to mid-May, and would have lower-capacity dining rooms, more spaces between tables, and some bar areas closed.
Following the announcement, the Arizona Restaurant Association issued a statement that reads:
“We appreciate the governor’s thoughtful and inclusive approach. And though we are not ready to open today, by working together we will get there soon,” Chucri says. “The health and wellbeing of our employees, guests, and community remain our top priority and we look forward to safely welcoming back our valued guests to our dining rooms very soon!”
"I don’t think we’re gonna operate at 100%, at capacity after the first day. I think it’s gonna be a slow, judicious and deliberate return to our dining rooms, and we’ll be ready to accommodate that," said Chucri.
Chucri said restaurants will clean menus constantly, routine sanitize door handles, and check staff members.
"I fully expect that we will be taking the temperatures of our employees, making sure that the employees coming into our restaurant are not sick, are not feeling under the weather, and making sure that they are taking care of themselves by providing a mask for them, whether it be cloth or disposable, that they’re gonna be using them in the back of the house, and in some cases, maybe in the dining rooms," said Chucri.
On Wednesday, FOX 10's Justin Lum spoke with John Santisi, a restaurant owner who said he has furloughed about 40 employees.
Santisi said he also took himself and the co-owner off the payroll since March, and has taken out a second mortgage to stay afloat.
"We don’t get a paycheck since March 17, so we been out of payroll for five weeks," said Santisi. "We are hanging on barely, and the [Paycheck Protection Program] isn’t working out for a majority of us."
Santisi said he is relieved to see some light at the end of the tunnel, with the May 12 date that was mentioned by the Governor.
"Two weeks away. We can do it. We need to have at least a week ahead of time to make sure we get everything the way they want it," said Santisi. "It’s gonna be six feet apart if we’re gonna be 50 percent capacity for the safety of our staff and the safety of our customers, we’re ready to go. We’re standing by and we’re ready. We need to go.”
Pandemic takes its toll on Arizona's economy
The economic impact of the virus has already become apparent in Arizona.
One in four small businesses in Phoenix could be gone for good, according to the city's economic director. It could take six years to recover all the jobs that have been lost.
"Seeing that 20% to 25% of our small businesses won't be here when this is over is terrifying for me," said Christine Mackay, Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Phoenix.
The stay-at-home order, otherwise known as the "Stay home, stay healthy, stay connected" policy, took effect on March 31 and was set to last throughout the month of April.
Maricopa County officials say the order has helped to flatten the curve, as hospitalization rates have slowed in the county.
Former State Health Director Will Humble, who is now the Executive Director of the Arizona Public Health Association, says there are encouraging signs Arizona is moving in the right direction.
However, some models provide an ominous outlook once the state reopens.
One model posed by COVIDActNow.Org suggests that 68,000 people could be hospitalized by late May, and that 65,000 people would die in three months.
However, if the stay-at-home restrictions were kept in place, cases would stabilize with 2,000 deaths in three months instead.
Based on a model from the CDC and FEMA, the removal of today's stay-at-home order would cause a peak demand for medical resources in mid-June.
The governor announced on April 27 that the state would be taking steps to significantly expand testing to more Arizonans, calling it a "testing blitz." This new effort would allow 10,000 to 20,000 residents per week to be tested every Saturday for the next three weekends.
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