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Former Arizona health boss: Compliance needed from bars, clubs

('lafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s former health director said Tuesday the state needs a compliance system in order to ensure businesses that are likely to be allowed to reopen soon don’t contribute to another spike in coronavirus cases.

Will Humble, who now serves as the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad that bars and nightclubs need an accountability measure to help make sure Arizona doesn’t become another COVID-19 hotspot upon reopening.

Indoor gyms, bars/nightclubs, indoor theaters, water parks and tubing operators in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties are likely to begin resuming business operations soon with the expectation of meeting the moderate range for reopening following Thursday’s dashboard update.

“If we open the bars and nightclubs without that compliance system in place, I guarantee you we will be back at June 1.7, not June 2.0,” Humble said.

Arizona skyrocketed in coronavirus cases in June after the state reopened in mid-May.

Several pictures and videos shared to social media showed large gatherings at bars and nightclubs, activities Humble said contributed to the sharp spike.

Discipline was minimal for offending establishments until a June 29 executive order from Gov. Doug Ducey indefinitely shut down operations at certain businesses deemed high risk for spreading COVID-19.

“It was a mistake to open under the honor system,” Humble said.

Humble’s suggestion was to require all bars and nightclubs to post in several places the phone number to the state’s complaint hotline if mitigation measures weren’t being met.

Those complaints would then be forwarded to county health departments for review.

“It’s not rocket science to set up a program,” Humble said.

Bars and nightclubs that offer dine-in restaurant service can operate at 50% of capacity in both the moderate and minimal ranges.

They also must follow the state-mandated requirements and restrictions on hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, enhanced cleaning, ventilation, open seating, symptom screening, physical distancing, masks and communal spaces.

“If we make the mistake again, we will be back where we were and we will have to do something dramatic again or risk hospital capacity this fall,” Humble said.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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