Gov. Ducey to clarify closure order for businesses amid criticism

After mounting criticism, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s chief of staff promised Friday to update guidance on what Ducey’s social distancing order means to businesses such as nail and hair salons that must have close contact with customers.

The Republican governor repeatedly said during a town hall broadcast on more than 80 radio and TV stations Thursday night that salons and barbershops were not included in his list of “essential services” that can remain open under an executive order he issued March 23 to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

“If they’re looking for cover under one of our categories, they’re going to have to be able to demonstrate that they can exercise social distancing or some other type of protective measure,” Ducey said.

The actual executive order doesn’t specifically name salons and barbershops as essential “personal services” But the news release announcing the action does, and bars cities from ordering them closed to stop virus spread.

When questioned at the town hall about why salons are being allowed to remain open since there’s virtually no way clients or staff can maintain a safe distance to avoid spreading the virus, Ducey did not answer directly and instead pointed to his closure of bars and restaurants and a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.

“Like I said, we focused on shutting down as much as we could of these issues to slow that spread,” Ducey said.

“If we need to update the guidance we will do that, and we will continue to do that,” he said.

Ducey Chief of Staff Daniel Scarpinato tweeted Friday morning that clarification would come by the end of the day. He was responding to a tweet from Democratic U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton’s chief of staff, Seth Scott, who said he was told by the governor’s office Friday that small businesses should hire a lawyer if they didn’t understand if they were affected.

“The governor very much supports our small business community and ABSOLUTELY wants to provide clarity during this ever-evolving situation,” Scarpinato wrote.

Ducey’s list of “essential services” is very broad and has drawn criticism from many mayors. Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans last week ordered salons closed in her city, risking pushback from the governor that never came.

In other developments Friday, the Coconino National Forest closed popular hiking trails and day-sites among the scenic red rocks of Sedona because of a large numbers of hikers and a failure to practice social distancing.

Sites to be closed indefinitely this weekend include the Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Vista trailheads, and the Beaver Creek day-use site, forest officials announced Thursday.

The closures were made in coordination with Sedona and Verde Valley officials concerned about the possible effect on local health and emergency services, the forest said.

“We realize these popular destinations in Sedona are places people rejuvenate by getting outside and experiencing the beauty this area has to offer,” Red Rock District Ranger Amy Tinderholt said. “However, the unfortunate reality at these locations during this pandemic has been continued high use, causing crowds to form and people lining up just to hike or get to the end of the trail.”

People wanting to visit Sedona “should stay home and reschedule for another time,” Sedona Mayor Sandy Moriarty said Tuesday in a statement. “We cannot afford to risk the capacity of our local hospitals or the lives of our healthcare workers and vulnerable citizens because people want to take a vacation.”.

The forest said it will issue citations to anyone who ignores the closures.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix City Council on Thursday voted down a measure that would have closed trails in the city’s parks.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported another nine virus-related deaths Friday, bringing the total to 41. The number of cases statewide is now 1,769.

On the Navajo Nation, tribal President Jonathan Nez said anyone found violating a reservation-wide nighttime curfew will be cited and fined starting Saturday. That includes both tribal members and non-members.

For most people, coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

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