Gov. Doug Ducey

Gov. Doug Ducey said last week that while there are encouraging trends in COVID-19 cases recently, Arizonans must still observe safety protocols.

Gov. Doug Ducey last week defended indoor political rallies with thousands of people without masks even as he admitted the only way Arizona will stop the upward trend of infections is if people mask up and stay home. But now he has toughened the policy on other places where people gather. 

“People’s rights to assemble are not going to be infringed,’’ the governor said Thursday when asked about his attendance at a Trump rally at a packed north Phoenix church with about 3,000 people, the majority of who did not have masks. 

On Monday, Ducey said he was ordering bars, water parks, tubing and gyms closed for 30 days. He also banned all  events with more than 50 people inside or out of a building unless strict plans for social distancing are in place. School can start before Aug. 17, but not in buildings. 

Stating trends in virus cases “are going in the wrong direction,” Ducey said his order does not apply to churches or political rallies.

He also directed that any apartment complex or other private pool post orders requiring social distancing. 

 While visits to elderly residents in nursing homes and similar facilities will remain largely forbidden, Ducey said he is making $10,000 grants available to those facilities so they can purchase digital devices that will provide more interaction between residents and their looved ones. 

On Thursday, Ducey brushed aside questions about how requiring people to wear masks – now the law in Phoenix and Scottsdale – interferes with their right to assemble.

“It’s in the First Amendment,’’ he said.

At the same time, however, the governor announced the state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control had sent notices to eight Scottsdale bars which he said were not complying with the new “guidance’’ he issued last week to ensure protection of employees and patrons.

 That agency is empowered to take away the right of any of these establishments to serve alcohol.

“The crowded social gatherings that we’ve seen must be minimized,’’ he said.

All this is occurring as Ducey announced that the rate of COVID-19 infection in Arizona will continue to rise.

“I don’t want there to be illusion or sugar-coated expectations,’’ he said. “We expect that our numbers will be worse next week and the week following, in terms of cases and hospitalizations.’’ He reiterated his alarm over the rise in virus cases on Monday.

What eventually will flatten the upward curve in viruses, Ducey said, is the fact that he agreed a week ago to allow cities and counties to impose face mask requirements.

He has refused to do this on a statewide basis. But the governor said the fact that 75 percent of the state now is under such a local mandate should finally result in the state turning the corner – for the moment.

“What we’re going to deal with now over the next 30 or 40 days, I believe will slow the spread of this virus,’’ he said. . “And then we will head into a second wave.’’

Ducey, who dissolved his stay-at-home order in the middle of last month after six weeks, said he is not prepared to reinstate it. 

But the governor did say that, mandate or not, people should stay at home when they don’t need to be out.

“Go out and get a haircut,’’ he said. “Get something to eat. And go home.’’

Dr. Cara Christ, his health director, echoed that message.

“You are safer at home with your household contacts,’’ she said. And Christ said there are things people need to consider if and when they do go out.

“Indoor spaces are riskier than being outdoors,’’ she said. And the more people there are, Christ said, the greater the risk of infection. She and Ducey also repeatedly stressed the need for people to wear masks in public.

Christ also advised people to limit their Independence Day celebrations to close family gatherings. 

Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert all have plans for very limited July 4 celebrations, stripping down weekend-long festivities to a drive-in firworks show.  

All those drive-in fireworks shows will enforce social distancing, with Mesa and Chandler making cars and trucks park in alternating spaces. 

For the most part, people in those vehicles won’t have a chance to mingle with others much. They will be required to stay in the empty parking space next to their vehicle or just stay in their vehicle. Mesa’s fireworks show will be at the abandoned Fiest Mall on Alma School  Road and the US 60 while Chandler’s will be held at Tumbleweed Park in south Chandler. Both begin at 9 p.m. 

Ahwatukee has no fireworks show. It fell victim in 2017 to financial hardship within the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce, which had sponsored it for two decades, as well as freeway construction.    

AFN contributed to this report.

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