Q&A with Arizona’s top health official on business benchmarks, enforcement

Sep 4, 2020, 1:00 PM

PHOENIX — Arizona’s top health official said Friday that the state is heading in the right direction when it comes to containing the spread of coronavirus as more businesses continue to reopen.

Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ told The Mike Broomhead Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday the department has been working with businesses as they continue to reopen to make sure they are following guidelines and are aware of any potential complaints filed against them.

Here is a sampling of questions and answers from Christ’s interview:

What’s the difference between a bar that serves food and operates as a restaurant versus a traditional bar that doesn’t serve food?

Christ: “The reason that a bar that can operate as a restaurant is a little bit safer than a bar is you’ve got people seated. You’ve got a controlled environment. People aren’t up walking around, You can enforce the mask use, and there’s a better chance of controlling the virus than if you’re in a bar situation where there may not be seating, where there may be loud music, people have to lean in, get closer to people to hear, people will talk louder. They will sing, they will shout. That increases the transmissibility of the virus, and also we know that when people use alcohol that the that you’re less likely to remember to physically distance and stay away from others, and it’s impossible to drink with a mask on.”

Can you update us on the numbers of complaints you’ve gotten through the hotline in the website?

Christ: “We’ve gotten over 1,200 total complaints through the hotline and the website. We are working through those. We have those that we deemed high priority that we go out on because they are high risk. We feel that they’re putting the public in danger. There are others that either are types of industries that we aren’t regulating or that we’re getting complaints about masks, and then there’s just some general complaints about I think COVID-19 in general.”

Are there any warnings that are going out anymore or have you already warned them enough that if you see that there is a is there a level of infraction that it’s a cut off?

Christ: “It’s going to depend on what the complaint is. If we get a complaint that, like an individual saw one person at a gym without a mask on, that may be a call to that gym to say, ‘Hey, we’re getting complaints. You need to make sure that you’re monitoring people with masks.’ If we get 32 complaints about that same gym, we’re gonna send people out and the same with night clubs and bars that may not be serving food. If we just get a complaint that somebody walked in and there were people up walking around a restaurant, that may be a call. If it’s an actual nightclub where people are dancing, not eating food, not physically distancing, then we would send people out.”

Are there any numbers that you’re looking at that are still very concerning to you, or do you see everything kind of trending in the right direction?

Christ: “I believe that things are trending in the right direction. Our percent positivity is going down. We are seeing our number of cases decrease. The rates per 100,000 are decreasing, so all of that is very promising. The one thing that we are watching is the number of cases. We want that to continue going down. We don’t want it to plateau, and we certainly don’t want it to go back up.”

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Q&A with Arizona’s top health official on business benchmarks, enforcement