Arizona Gov. Ducey held COVID-19 briefing as businesses reopen, students return to school

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey provided a COVID-19 update on the afternoon of August 20,as another 723 cases and 50 deaths were reported.

Ducey held the media briefing with Major General Michael McGuire from the Arizona Dept. of Emergency and Military Affairs and Dr. Cara Christ from the Dept. of Health Services.

Hundreds of businesses that were ordered to close for months are now applying to reopen, with numerous theaters, gyms and bars receiving approval to do so.

However, many more applications have been denied by ADHS.

Students return to school

Ducey's briefing came as schools and universities return to a mix of virtual and online learning for the fall.

COVID-19 conditions in Arizona have improved to the point where it is safe for two largely rural counties to reopen schools for partial in-person learning.

Arizona virus cases continue to see downward trend

Arizona became a national hotspot in June and July, with new infections rampant, hospitals nearing capacity and deaths soaring.

The sharp rise in cases started about two weeks after Gov. Doug Ducey allowed stay-home orders to expire on May 15, and bars, nightclubs and other large venues became packed with patrons.

In mid-June, Ducey relented and allowed local governments to require people to wear masks in public. On June 29, he ordered bars, nightclubs and water parks to close as daily case counts neared 5,000 a day.

Those actions appeared to have a major effect, with new cases dropping quickly.

The Department of Health Services on Thursday reported 723 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 50 additional deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 196,280 cases and 4,684 deaths.

COVID-19-related hospitalization metrics posted by the Department of Health Services have returned to levels last reported in early June.

While the COVID-19 burden on hospitals “has been decreasing, it is important for everyone to continue working to prevent a new surge,” the department said on Twitter. “Wear a mask, stay home if you are sick, and physically distance while in public.”

Meanwhile, according to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press, seven-day rolling averages of cases and deaths in Arizona continued to decline over the past two weeks.

The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases dropped from 1,990 on Aug. 5 to 873 on Aug. 19 and the rolling average of deaths per day dropped from 68 on Aug. 5 to 41 on Aug. 19.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. 

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MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code

CDC: How coronavirus spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ

Continuing Coverage

LIST: Arizona businesses that have been approved to reopen

As of Wednesday, August 19, several businesses have been approved, including movie theaters, bars, and gyms. AZDHS says duplicate business names reflect different locations. They did not give exact locations.

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Gov. Doug Ducey released a statement on why some bars in Arizona are told to remain closed during the pandemic, citing the "guidance of public health."

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Arizona State University has several health guidelines in place to keep its community safe as students head back to classes on Aug. 20.

Arizona close to meeting COVID-19 metrics for school reopenings

Health expert Will Humble says Arizona could meet all three metrics that will allow at least a partial reopening of schools by Labor Day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.