Ducey: Utilities won’t disconnect; hospitals to begin emergency planning

Mar 26, 2020, 10:55 AM | Updated: 2:41 pm
(Salt River Project Photo)...
(Salt River Project Photo)
(Salt River Project Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s largest public utility companies have agreed to not shut off customers’ power while the coronavirus outbreak has led to financial strain and the shutdown of businesses, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Thursday in a news release.

Arizona Public Service, Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power and six electric cooperatives will not assess late fees or interest to bills accrued at this time, according to Ducey’s office.

The companies agreed to allow customers flexible payment options and help them switch plans if necessary.

This agreement expands announcements already made by APS and SRP. About two weeks ago, both announced the same plan for their individual companies.

“I’m grateful to Arizona’s electricity providers for stepping up to protect customers during this unprecedented time,” Ducey said in a statement.

“Responding to COVID-19 and supporting Arizonans impacted will require a whole-of-state approach. This agreement includes important measures to make sure families, businesses and healthcare facilities continue to have access to reliable electricity throughout this public health emergency.”

Ducey also announced Thursday morning he signed an executive order to ensure hospitals are prepared in case of a mass increase of coronavirus patients.

Arizona Department of Health Services director Dr. Cara Christ has said models project that cases in the state would peak in April and hospitalizations would peak in May.

This executive order requires hospitals to trigger their facility emergency plans, which includes implementing a process that would allow non-critical patients to be re-routed and increase the number of beds by 50% by April 24.

“As public health officials, we have a responsibility to prepare for the worst-case scenario to plan for a pandemic,” Christ said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to bring additional hospital beds online, find needed supplies and identify critical equipment, including ventilators. We’re focused on working to make sure hospitals across the state build their capacity.”

On Thursday afternoon, Ducey signed an executive order that would push back upcoming expiration dates of professional licenses.

Workers with licenses due to expire between March 1 and Sept. 1 will have six extra months to renew, unless requirements can be completed online.

Completion of education requirements also has been delayed by six months, unless it can be done online.

“The last thing we need now is for recurring licensing requirements to keep someone from working,” Ducey said in a press release.

“Many professionals are working from home or their office … We want to make sure they have the opportunity to continue doing so and contributing to our economy.”

Ducey and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality also announced a waiver Thursday afternoon regarding vehicle emissions tests for vehicle owners 65 and older.

The waiver will last for one year and will also allow vehicle owners to renew their vehicle registrations online after completing the waiver application.

“This latest action is informed by guidance from public health experts,” Ducey said.

“People over age 65 are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and this is another way Arizona can help encourage social distancing and protect the health of our seniors.”

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Ducey: Utilities won’t disconnect; hospitals to begin emergency planning