Weekend wrap-up: Here are the biggest Arizona stories from March 27-29
PHOENIX — Tucson’s mayor orders non-essential businesses to close for three weeks, Arizona announces its largest single day death toll due to coronavirus and a top health health official discusses COVID-19’s widespread classification in the state.
Here are some stories that headlined the Arizona news cycle over the weekend.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero set new restrictions in place for the city Friday night.
Romero signed a proclamation ordering businesses not deemed essential to close at 8 a.m. on Saturday, calling for a shutdown across the city through April 17.
Romero also strongly advised some businesses Gov. Doug Ducey deemed essential, such as hair and nail salons, spas, barber shops and other “personal hygiene services” shut down for the same timeframe.
Arizona reported its largest daily increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths Friday morning.
The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 13 deaths on Friday, up five from the previous day.
The state had 665 positive tests as of Friday morning. By Sunday morning, total coronavirus cases increased to 919 with a death toll of 17.
President Donald Trump is extending the voluntary national shutdown for a month as sickness and death from the coronavirus pandemic rise in the U.S.
The initial 15-day period of social distancing urged by the federal government expires Monday and Trump had expressed interest in relaxing the national guidelines at least in parts of the country less afflicted by the pandemic. But instead he decided to extend them through April 30, a tacit acknowledgment he’d been too optimistic. Many states and local governments have stiffer controls in place on mobility and gatherings.
Following La Paz County’s first two reported cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, Arizona’s community spread was upgraded from a moderate to widespread classification by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
“Widespread is the highest level,” Jessica Rigler, assistant director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.
With the state’s new coronavirus classification, Rigler advised residents to be vigilant about their social distancing practices such as staying six feet away from others, diligent hand washing, staying home when sick and avoiding non-essential travel.
Although some — including President Donald Trump — have touted the possibility that the looming warmer months may offer some relief to the spread of coronavirus, Rigler is hesitant to embrace that viewpoint.
“It would be great if that was true,” Rigler said.
“There’s not a lot known about this yet and so we are not certain if that’s really how the disease will behave in warmer weather.”
The City of Phoenix this weekend began limiting access to various hiking destinations in order to promote social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Five of the city’s high-traffic hiking destinations will have limited access, and the visibility of park rangers and city staff at those locations will increase to resolve issues with vehicle and foot traffic.
The impacted areas are Hole in the Rock at Papago Park, the Echo Canyon Trailhead and Cholla Trail at Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak Trailhead, and Pima County Trailhead and Dobbins Lookout at South Mountain Park.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation on Friday to provide assistance to schools that are closed amid the coronavirus outbreak.
House Bill 2910 will give assistance to schools during the closure, provide clarity and flexibility on statewide testing requirements and school letter grades, give direction on make-up days, require learning opportunities for students to continue, and ensure teachers and staff see no disruption in pay as a result.
“It protects our teachers and prioritizes our students, ensuring kids continue to receive instruction even with schools closed,” Ducey said in a release. “I’m grateful to our education leaders, Superintendent (Kathy) Hoffman, Representative (Michelle) Udall and Senator Sylvia Allen for their leadership, and thank members of both parties for their unanimous support”
The bill also says schools will not be required to extend the number of school days or add additional hours to make up for days missed when schools do reopen.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.