Protesters, under President Trump’s encouragement, have called for Arizona to reopen its economy by May 1, but local leaders say they believe that’s too early.
After a weekend of protests across the country calling for stay-at-home orders to be lifted and businesses reopened, Arizona mayors say they don’t think the state is ready to attempt a return to normalcy so soon.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said she doesn’t believe Arizona’s economy will meet the White House’s guidelines for reopening businesses as soon as some people would like.
“Currently, Arizona is not meeting the criteria to proceed with a May 1 reopening,” Gallego said in a tweet last week. “In order for us to meet these metrics we need more widespread testing, including asymptomatic individuals, and a more robust contact-tracing program.”
Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order is in effect through April 30, although he has said he will extend it if he feels it is necessary. Protesters, however, have called for him to allow it to expire.
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Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell said Arizona needs more testing so the state can determine when it’s “appropriate” to begin the reopening process.
“Only when we have this public health data showing real progress toward flattening the curve and a real downward trajectory should we start a phased reopening of the Arizona economy,” Mitchell said in a statement to The Copper Courier. “I’m eager to reopen the economy as well, but the worst thing we could do is to reopen too soon and see a major setback that prolongs this crisis and further harms the economy.”
Mayor Merrill Young of Holbrook said while he, too, would love for businesses to reopen in May, he believes it’s “hazardous” to set a solid date.
“I do believe we need to see the data when that date nears,” Young told The Copper Courier.” As the data comes in, then we can say yes to reopening or push the date out a little further. As far as lifting the restrictions, I think it should be done in the same fashion as the shut down — this meaning little bits at a time for restarting the businesses.”
Mayor Al Gameros of Globe agrees that Arizona won’t be ready to reopen businesses by the beginning of next month.
“We are still seeing increases in positive cases and deaths in our state,” he told The Copper Courier. “According to the phases outlined by the President, we need to show a 14-day decline before moving forward.”
He said he is also worried about the state’s resources available for testing and treatment.
“If we open, we need to be able to confirm cases immediately and isolate in order to keep another spike from occurring,” he said. “I understand and feel the frustration of people laid off and the many businesses that have been shut down. I just want to make sure that we are truly ready in all communities in Arizona, especially our rural areas.”
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Mayor Alex Barber of Jerome said she especially understands the frustration of people laid off, as she is one herself.
“I find myself working as the volunteer Mayor of Jerome up to 40 hours a week due to Covid-19,” Barber told The Copper Courier. “My day job [working as a salesperson as the Miner’s Pick Rock Shop] closed weeks ago. I want to return to my paying job as soon as possible.”
She said she also worries about her town’s economic losses due to the pandemic. She said Jerome lost over $24,000 in sales tax in March, and anticipated losses are expected to hit over $129,000 this month and $131,000 in May.
But even then, Barber agrees that more has to happen on the pandemic front in order to consider reopening businesses.
“We need a downward trajectory in cases in order to reopen, more testing, and more data,” she said.
“As bad as I want to open, it must be done correctly,” she added.
Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans echoed Barber’s point.
“The decision to close non-essential businesses and public spaces such as playgrounds in our communities is a very difficult one,” Evans told The Copper Courier. “I recognize the tremendous impact to our economy and look forward to working with our local businesses and community to recover. We can’t do this until it is safe though, until our community is safe to resume normal activities.”
Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls declined to comment on whether Arizona is ready to reopen by May 1.
The mayors of Kingman and Tucson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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