emergency Photo by Gage Skidmore

Arizona has now surpassed 3,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Gov. Doug Ducey has some decisions to make this week about Arizona’s response to COVID-19, including whether schools should wait longer before reopening and if certain business closures should continue.

Ducey ordered gyms, bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, waterparks, and tubing to close back down June 29 after they were allowed to begin reopening in early May with the expiration of the state’s six-week stay-at-home order. 


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A resulting surge in COVID-19 cases in the state led members of the public to call for a slower reopening and more action to prevent people from gathering, especially in small, indoor spaces.

Ducey’s announcement in June ordered those businesses to close for 30 days, with the end date approaching next week.

The governor is expected to announce if he will allow the closures to expire, extend them, or modify them at a Thursday press briefing at 3 p.m. 


Schools


Ducey is also expected to announce an update when it comes to schools reopening this fall.

Also at the end of June, Ducey announced the state would push back the date schools could choose to reopen for in-person classes by two weeks, making the new date Aug. 17. 


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But ABC 15 reported Ducey has considered pushing that date back further, possibly to Sept. 7, which is Labor Day. 

Many public health experts and educators have called for schools to avoid in-person instruction at all until the virus is more under control. 

Due to safety concerns, some school districts have decided to stick with remote learning until further notice.


COVID-19 


Arizona topped 3,000 COVID-19 deaths Thursday, with the state health department reporting an additional 89 that morning. 

More than 1,000 of the total deaths have been reported in the past 15 days.

The agency also reported 2,335 new cases, coming to a total of 152,944.


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Despite Thursday’s milestone for deaths, an Arizona State University researcher said Wednesday that it is becoming clear that cases have plateaued in the state. That said, Dr. Joshua LaBaer of the ASU Biodesign Institute believes the level is much too high to ease up on restrictions, especially bar closures.

LaBaer also said any reopening of schools will need to be done carefully with precautions worked out by each district. School officials across the state have worked for months on reopening plans that remain fluid as Arizona remains a virus hot spot.

But he said it is clear students need in-person instruction.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.