As Business Resumes And COVID-19 Cases Surpass 13K, How Will Arizonans Come Together to Stay Safe?

COVID-19 Arizona reopen

Laura Spencer, a recruiter at the corporate offices of the Fox Restaurant Concepts Phoenix-based eateries, cleans off a dining table as she helps out at Flower Child restaurant as the restaurant is just one of the gradually opening full service dine-in establishments, expanding from their takeout option, to reopen as Arizona slowly relaxes restrictions due to the coronavirus Monday, May 11, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

By Brandy Rae Ramirez

May 15, 2020

COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths continue to increase as Arizona resumes business operations. Experts say if people aren’t responsible as they resume activities, “we’re going to end up back in the same place.”

As businesses continue to open their doors today and over the weekend, COVID-19 cases in Arizona show no signs of decreasing. 

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), confirmed COVID-19 cases are now at 13,169 with 495 new cases reported today. Additionally, 27 more people died from the virus for a total of 651.

While cases still show no signs of slowing, Arizona’s economy continues its reopening process. From salons and barbershops, to fitness gyms, trails and casinos, life will resume with a new normal. Bars have even been given the green light to reopen by the Arizona Department of Liquor, as long as food is served along with drinks.

However, businesses have been given strict social distancing guidelines to follow in order to reduce health risks to customers. According to Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, if guidelines aren’t followed, the percentage of positive tests and number of hospitalizations in the state will go up.


“If people aren’t responsible … we’re going to end up back in the same place,” he told the Copper Courier. 

How Some Cities Are Trying to Ensure Safety

With reopening measures, many cities are doing what they can to ensure individual safety with the stay-at-home order being lifted.

Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, who recently had an issue with crowding at a restaurant, issued an emergency proclamation Tuesday requiring all businesses to submit security plans to the city (like bars, nightclubs, and entertainment venues) and document how they will follow social distancing and other protective measures. 

The Pima County Board of Supervisors also approved a set of temporary regulations designed to facilitate safe reopening measures of gyms and fitness centers.

“Gyms and fitness centers are an important part of the local economy and important to physical wellness of the community,” officials said in a press release. “Pima County established these temporary regulations in recognition of this unique role these businesses play in the local economy.”

Pima County officials added that these temporary regulations are a way to balance reopening with protecting public health through safe physical distancing, enhanced cleaning, and sanitization processes of facilities to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Several Arizona casinos partially reopening Friday will do so with new sanitizing protocols and social distancing measures in place.

Some Arizona Casinos Are Reopening With Safety Measures in Place

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino in Maricopa Fort McDowell Casino near Fountain Hills reopened Friday, and the three casinos the Gila River Indian Community runs in the southern part of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area are set to resume partial operations.

The Ak-Chin Tribal Council earlier approved the reopening of its casino, with slot machine banks arranged to allow for social distancing and limited seating at blackjack tables. Poker, keno and bingo games are not resuming yet.

“We look forward to welcoming back our casino guests,” Robert Livingston, the casino’s general manager, said in a statement.

Along with instituting new social distancing and sanitizing measures, the casino that belongs to the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation will conduct temperature checks using handheld scanners and thermal cameras. Anyone with a reading over 100 will be denied entry.

On its website, Gila River Hotels & Casinos is encouraging visitors to “RECLAIM YOUR FUN” at the Lone Butte and Wild Horse Pass casinos near Chandler and the Vee Quiva in Laveen.

“We are so excited to welcome you back. It’s time to reclaim your time, freedom, and fun,” the online message says. “We’ve taken extensive measures to ensure the safety of our guests.”

The Gila River site said casinos would have new non-smoking sections on slot machine floors that observe social distancing and hard plastic shields had been installed in key areas including the cashier cage and some dining venues. Hand sanitizing stations were being prepared at entrances and social distancing will be encouraged throughout with signs and marks on the floor.

Visitors will be asked whether they have any symptoms like a fever or dry cough and will be encouraged to wear masks. Fewer people will be allowed in the gaming areas at the same time.

As for other casinos around Arizona, Bucky’s & Yavapai Casinos in Prescott Valley announced this week they will reopen June 1.

Mazatzal Hotel & Casino in Payson Tuesday extended its shutdown, but did not specify a reopening date. The website for the Desert Diamond Casinos in Glendale, Tucson, and Sahuarita have also not announced they will reopen.

Talking Stick Resort and Casino and Casino Arizona near Scottsdale previously announced they would remain closed through May. They said the owner and operator, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, was fully compensating staff during the closure.

Cliff Castle Casino in Camp Verde and Twin Arrows Casino Resort in Flagstaff say they will remain closed for now.

Arizona’s Department of Gaming has said each casino’s decision to close is being decided by the individual sovereign tribal nations.

Those Who Wish to Stay Indoors Can Get Library Books Curbside

For those individuals who would rather stay safe indoors, the Phoenix Public Library will start reopening with curbside service starting Monday after closing for two months during the coronavirus pandemic.

Patrons can either call or go online to place new holds on books and other materials. Once notified that their items are ready, and can pick them up at all city library locations except for the South Mountain branch.

South Mountain library patrons can get their materials at the Ocotillo branch.

The curbside service will be available 8 to 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Customers must wait in their cars with their library card or number and their cell phone to assist with pickup. 

Upon arrival, they will call the posted telephone number and a library staff member will deliver any requested items to the trunk or rear seat of the vehicle.

Regardless of whether Arizonans plan to go out to a restaurant, casino, gym, or trail, the Center for Diseases Control guidelines emphasize that reopening America’s economy requires everyone working together to practice social distancing and other daily habits to reduce risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.

CDC Officials said, “Reopening the country also strongly relies on public health strategies, including increased testing of people for the virus, social distancing, isolation, and keeping track of how someone infected might have infected other people.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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