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Arizona releases data-driven roadmap for when businesses can reopen

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MARCH 26: Bars and restaurants outside of Chase Field are empty of fans on March 26, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Atlanta Braves were scheduled to play a Major League Baseball opening day game tonight, which was postponed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona businesses that were closed under an executive order designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 received a data-driven roadmap for reopening on Monday.

State officials released benchmarks that will be used to determine when indoor fitness centers, bars/nightclubs, indoor theaters, water parks and tubing will be allowed to apply for permission to open.

The benchmarks vary by industry, are based on conditions by county, and are posted on an online data dashboard. A county must meet benchmarks for each of the three data points in the dashboard to reach the required ranges for phased reopening.

Once the conditions in the county meet the specified thresholds and a business submits an attestation form that it is meeting all mitigation requirements, the business can reopen.

Some counties already are in the moderate range needed for some businesses to reopen. The Phoenix and Tucson areas aren’t there yet but could be within a few weeks, officials said.

The benchmarks and data dashboards are similar to those the Arizona Department of Health Services released last week for schools to use as guidance for making decisions on resuming on-campus classes.

Like with schools, the dashboard will be updated every two weeks and lag by 12 days to ensure the statistics are fully updated.

However, unlike with schools, the coronavirus-related thresholds and mitigation methods for businesses are requirements, not just recommendations.

When a county meets the benchmarks for what’s labeled the “moderate” range, gyms can open at 25% of occupancy as determined by fire code, and theaters, water parks and tubing can open at 50% of occupancy.

That goes up to 50% for gyms when benchmarks put a county into the range considered “minimal.”

Bars with series 6 or 7 liquor licenses that have converted to restaurant-style service can open at 50% occupancy when conditions are in the moderate range. Such bars that have traditionally operated as restaurants — an official used Postino as an example — have already been given clearance by the liquor licensing board to to open while keeping occupancy under 50%.

Bars and nightclubs that don’t operate as restaurants must remain closed in the moderate range but will be allowed to open at 50% occupancy when a county reaches the minimal range set for that industry.

If all three benchmarks aren’t met, the state is also offering a separate application process that gives businesses a chance to state their case for reopening.

The requirements revealed Monday apply to businesses that were closed in Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order from June 29, when COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations were surging across Arizona.

Those businesses had initially been allowed to reopen in May after being shut under the stay-at-home order issued at the outset of the pandemic.

The late-June order had no set end date but included a provision calling for it to be reconsidered for repeal or revision every two weeks starting July 27. The order remains in place after its second review Monday.

The spread of coronavirus in Arizona has been slowing since the implementation of face mask requirements in many areas — including all of Maricopa County — and statewide executive orders to close certain businesses and restrict restaurant occupancy.

Those moves were made after the state became a global hot spot for the coronavirus, which has no impact on some people and is seriously debilitating or fatal for others. Infected people without symptoms – which include but are not limited to cough, fever and difficulty breathing — are capable of spreading the virus.

Arizona reported 600 new coronavirus cases and 4 more deaths on Monday, bringing the state’s totals to 187,523 COVID-19 infections and 4,154 fatalities.

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