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Christ: Arizona unlikely to bring back capacity restrictions if cases surge

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s top health official doesn’t expect the state to again limit capacity for certain businesses if COVID-19 case numbers rise in upcoming weeks following Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order issued Friday.

Dr. Cara Christ, director for the Arizona Department of Health Services, believes accelerated vaccination rates as supply becomes more available and other continued mitigation strategies will keep case totals low.

Ducey’s order states that capacity limitations on restricted businesses, including restaurants, are to be lifted because of improving coronavirus metrics and strides in vaccine distribution.

“I don’t know that we would replace the capacity issues back on if we started to see a spike because I think the other thing that we have going on at the same time is that we will continue to see an accelerated administration of vaccine,” Christ said Friday during a press conference.

Many Arizona businesses were closed under Ducey’s executive order last June while coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surged, but returned with limited capacity as numbers slowed.

The impacted businesses didn’t receive clearance to operate at pre-pandemic capacity until Friday.

The state passed 2 million total vaccinations Friday and nearly 1.3 million Arizonans, about 18% of state’s population, have received at least one dose.

After spiking to record levels in January, Arizona’s coronavirus case and hospitalization numbers have also plummeted to their lowest levels in months.

Mitigation protocols such as physical distancing and mask wearing must remain in place, according to the order.

Christ said the state will continue enforcement on businesses that don’t comply with the regulations.

“We have had a lot of progress since the holiday break and I think with the physical distancing and the mask requirements, those are really important strategies for slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Christ said.

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