Ducey says “it’s safe out there,” even as the state sees an uptick in positive diagnostic tests.
Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday announced more steps toward reopening in Arizona, now giving youth sports and summer camps the go-ahead to resume with social distancing and other health measures in place.
The governor also said the state will plan to welcome students back to classrooms in the fall, with Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman expected to release a more detailed plan Monday.
Ducey announced the reopening of schools even as the state sees an uptick in metrics used to track the progression of the disease, including the portion of diagnostic tests that are positive and the portion of emergency room visits that are for COVID-19 symptoms.
State health officials reported 702 additional COVID-19 cases with 28 additional deaths as of Friday, increasing the state’s totals to 18,465 cases with 885 deaths.
Ducey has repeatedly touted a declining percentage of positive tests as a reason to push for reopening, but the figures he has cited combine diagnostic and antibody test results.
Despite there being no clear signs that the state has put the pandemic behind it, Ducey has gone so far as to tell most Arizonans they are safe stepping back out into public life.
“We’re safe out there. We’ve been responsible,” the governor told KTAR News before Thursday’s briefing. “I want to encourage people to get out and about, to take a loved one to dinner, to go retail shopping.”
“If you don’t have an underlying health condition, it’s safe out there,” he said.
However, not all people and businesses have exhibited safe behavior.
Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane called for stricter compliance with health and safety guidelines Tuesday after photos of packed clubs surfaced from the holiday weekend.
Ducey told KTAR he applauds Lane for speaking out, but he downplayed the seriousness of the crowds and lack of masks. At the briefing, he repeatedly avoided criticizing people ignoring social distancing guidance and stressed that most people are following the rules. The state has avoided overwhelming hospitals, he said.
Will Humble, a former state health director, said Ducey’s failure to criticize the “bad behavior” seen at the Scottsdale bar scene could encourage other establishments.
“The bars that have been suffering and doing the right thing are going to look at that behavior and say, ‘Nothing happened to the downtown Scottsdale people and they made a truckload of money over Memorial Day, so I’m going to do the same thing,’” Humble said. “And then it starts to metastasize.”
Bars that only serve alcohol are among the last businesses that remain closed under an order from Ducey, but clubs that also serve food can reopen — as those in the club district have. The governor allowed many businesses to reopen earlier this month and a stay-home order that was put in place in early April was allowed to expire on May 15.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.