Arizona is dropping all of its remaining restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 and make it eligible for vaccines for all residents 16 and older, Governor Doug Ducey said.
“We never did a closure in Arizona, so it’s impossible to have a major reopening,” he said.
“Instead, we will continue to take reasonable, safe and sensible measures.”
It comes on the heels of 10 consecutive weeks of declining daily infection rates in Arizona. The state now has one of the lowest rates of new cases per capita in the nation.
The pattern there is no different from what was seen in Florida. Both states had massive spikes in COVID-19 cases over the summer, eventually put in place some restrictions (though less strict than many other states), and managed surprisingly low rates of infection.
But Florida is now seeing a spike in Covid cases, realizing that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has been articulating in recent weeks.
Some Arizona officials fear that Ducey has set the state on the same course, while others see the decision to lift restrictions as a much-needed return to normalcy.
“In Arizona, we never did a shutdown, so it’s impossible to have a major reopening,” Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said in a statement announcing that his executive order was ending.
Arizona has seen 10 weeks of dramatic decline in daily infections and now sees only about nine new cases per capita per day
Ducey described the decision to lift restrictions as the welcome result of them being at all.
The measures taken last summer have enabled Arizona to fight back against COVID-19. I want to thank the local leaders who have supported these efforts with their own measures, and the companies that have implemented them, ”he said in a statement announcing his executive order to lift restrictions.
The state will now allow events of 50 or more people – without government approval – and requirements for businesses to remain open will now only be recommendations.
Arizona was one of the few holdout states to never issue a mask warrant, so it doesn’t have one to lift.
And Ducey said he trusts his constituents will continue to take precautions without being ordered to do so.
Historically, things haven’t really turned out that way once restrictions have been relaxed – including in Arizona.
The number of deaths has fallen dramatically, but more slowly. The state saw 32 new fatalities on Thursday
When the weather warned and COVID-19 cases fell across much of the country last summer, Arizona was among the dozens of states that relaxed restrictions.
It paid a heavy price for those few weeks of freedom and became one of the best hot spots in the country.
At the height of the summer wave in Arizona, nearly 5,500 people tested positive in one day (June 29 – although that peak would be eclipsed by January, when Arizona saw 12,412 new cases in one day).
‘The risk of another wave is real. The governor clearly cares far less about the people of Arizona than about his political future, ”said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.
Ducey and other government officials also cited the accelerated rollout of vaccines as the trailblazer for reversing restrictions.
But Arizona ranks mediocre for its vaccination coverage.
Only 15 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated and 25.8 percent has had a first dose.
That’s roughly in line with the national average, but well below New Mexico’s rate, which leads the nation with 20.6 percent of the population fully vaccinated. One-third of New Mexico’s residents have had at least one chance, according to a Bloomberg investigation.
Vaccination eligibility has now also been extended to anyone 16 or older, according to the executive order Ducey issued Thursday.
But the state will not immediately have enough supply to meet demand, which is about to explode.
And only about 11 percent of the population has previously tested positive for COVID-19, meaning the state is far from being outbreak-proof.
By relaxing these guidelines, we can undo the great results of the past few weeks. I want normalcy, but I also want herd immunity from # COVID19, ”said State Representative Cesar Chavez, a Democrat from Phoenix.