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Ducey extends closures to include salons, playgrounds

PHOENIX — Conceding there’s no way to operate them safely in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday ordered the shuttering of barbers, beauty parlors, nail salons, massage parlors and spas.

The governor’s order went into effect Saturday at 5 p.m., the same day Cochise County reported its eighth case of coronavirus. On Friday, several cases were recorded, including the first on Fort Huachuca.

The edict, also further narrows his original list of “essential services” to require the closure of any amenities at public parks “that do not allow for recommended physical distancing or proper hygiene.” That includes everything from basketball courts and playgrounds to public restrooms.

But it does spell out that everything else in public parks “shall remain open to the greatest extent possible.”

Also closing under the governor’s order will be swap meets.

And pools at hotels, condos, apartment complexes and in city parks also will be shut.

The City of Sierra Vista sent a press release shortly after the order came down Friday afternoon announcing it would be closing city facilities and businesses that fall under the new order.

“We urge Sierra Vistans to heed the governor’s guidance by spending as much time as possible at home, while practicing strict physical distancing when out in public,” Mayor Rick Mueller said in the release.

“It’s important to get exercise and enjoy the great outdoors to stay healthy, but only to the extent such activities can be done safely and in compliance with the state’s guidance.”

The new order comes nearly two weeks after questions were first raised about the governor’s decision to not only allow barber shops and hair salons to remain open but to specifically prohibit the state’s 91 cities and towns and 15 counties from using local orders to shutter them.

In fact, it was Ducey’s original order that caused Tucson Mayor Regina Romero to not include these businesses in her own proclamation a week ago, saying she has to “respect the governor’s executive order.” Instead she could only “strongly recommend” that they close.

“I don’t want to make it into a political stance,” the mayor said at the time. And Romero made it clear she does not want any possible legal challenge that could lose the city’s allocation of state revenue sharing dollars.

On Friday, Romero said the governor is doing the right thing — even if, as she believes, he had to be pressured into it by herself and other mayors.

“I’m glad that he heeded our call, that he heard us as the front-line jurisdiction that sees this first hand and the concerns that cities had about being able to provide safety and health in our community,” she told Capitol Media Services.

And Romero said it was not just the mayors who were concerned.

“I think he heard the community and all Arizonans, loud and clear, as well,” she said.

“This is not about vindication,” Romero said. “It’s something that is good for every Arizonan.”

Friday’s directive by the governor also legitimizes the order by Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans who, defying Ducey, had previously ordered these businesses shuttered in her city. That risked a legal fight and even threats by Rep. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, to file a complaint that could have resulted in the loss of that city’s state aid.

Evans was pleased by the news.

“He’s updated his executive order to reflect the fact that we are trying to prevent people from dying,” she said. “I think it’s been two weeks of him growing his understanding about the severity of this issue.”

In issuing the new directive, the governor did not admit that he was wrong in the first place for deciding that hair and nail salons and similar businesses were essential “personal hygiene services” and could be safely operated even during the outbreak. Instead, he said, it is simply a question that “guidance from public health officials evolves.”

“During these unprecedented times, providing clarity for small businesses and employers is an important measure to ensure we protect our citizens, slow the spread of COVID-19, and protect this critical part of our economy,” Ducey said in a prepared statement.

Press aide Patrick Ptak echoed that Friday’s order was not any concession that the original list of essential services issued on March 23 was too broad and risky from a health perspective.

“What today’s guidance does is clarify within the categories that were identified in the governor’s additional executive order,” he said, referring to that March 23 list. “As we’ve said all along, as guidance from health officials evolves we’ll continue to release information and direction as needed.”

And Ptak said the governor indicated during an hour-long televised live town hall that he already was considering revamping his original order.

“We determined there was room to provide additional guidance,” Ptak said. “And here it is.”

The flip side of Ducey’s order is to spell out those personal hygiene services that remain essential and off-limits to local regulation.

Most notably, the list includes motels and hotels that are used for lodging. And their restaurants also can remain open but only to provide deliver or carry-out food services.

RV parks also are essential.

The permitted list also includes daycare centers, but only those who provide for the children of individuals who are working at other essential jobs.

In drawing the line on outdoor activities, Ptak said the governor was focused on what can be done safely. That, said Ptak, is why Ducey decided that basketball courts should be off limits.

“The guidance is to eliminate, cancel or postpone social gatherings of 10 or more,” he said. “Activities that could lend themselves to people congregating for that type of physical contact were the ones we wanted to clarify would be considered non-essential.”

While Evans praised the governor to coming around to her thinking on beauty salons and barbers, she said Ducey should consider even greater restrictions. And what she most immediately has in mind are grocery stores.

She wants grocery stores to go entirely to either delivery or pickup mode, where people can call in or email their orders. Evans also cited services like Instacart that operate almost like an Uber-Eats service, pickup up items from local stores and delivering them to people’s homes.

The issue, Evans said, is keeping not just shoppers safe but also employees at grocery stores who have to interact with customers.

“They don’t get hazard pay,” she said.

Still, Evans conceded there are people — herself included — who tend to like to go up and down the aisles of grocery stores to decide what they want.

A glimmer of hope: Districts keep options open for graduation, prom

REGION — Cleaning out his backpack was the moment Buena High School senior Jovoni Borbon realized the extent the coronavirus was impacting the end of his high school career.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “But I’m not the only one. Every senior is going through this.”

The fear for the Class of 2020: their family and friends are missing out on the moment each student has worked for and looked forward to for years: graduation.

“I put in 12 years of work to walk across the stage and get my diploma,” Borbon said. “I hope (graduation) gets postponed and not canceled.”

Districts across the county — and the country — are holding out hope on behalf of their seniors to recognize the Class of 2020 in some way.

As of now, Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive orders state gatherings of 10 or more people should be canceled or postpones, which makes proms and graduations a no-go for now. Tombstone Unified School District Superintendent Robert Devere said they are holding off on making a firm decision on the events in case there is a change in the guidelines.

“Things are very much in the air,” he said. “We’re not giving ourselves a deadline because we don’t have control (over what’s going to happen).”

In response to a series of questions sent to Sierra Vista Unified School District, spokesman Jacob Martinez responded with a copy of a letter from Buena High School Principal Kristen Hale to parents.

Hale said plans are still being made and parents will receive more information as plans are made.

“To parents of seniors, rest assured that one of our highest priorities is to make sure that your student graduates and also has an opportunity to be properly celebrated as they mark the completion of their K-12 career,” Hale’s letter read. “We will find a way to get your caps and gowns to you as well. Please know that we will be in contact with specific details as they are finalized.”

In addition to waiting to see if the gathering guidelines are loosened, Devere said TUSD is in early discussions with alternate options for having a “ceremony”, whether a parade or online format. He said the board will discuss possible plans on Wednesday the the governing board meeting.

“This whole situation is unfortunate,” Devere said. “We’ll do what we can to make (the seniors’) end of the year exciting.”

He added staff have been in contact with each of the students to help keep their spirits up in a time when many are losing hope.

“We’re reassuring them thing are going to be fine when we get through this,” Devere said.

Unsocial Distancing

The thought of not having a prom or graduation isn’t the only loss for this years graduating class. The abrupt closures of the schools didn’t leave students and teachers with much time to grasp the last moments.

“We have all this time off, but we can’t hang out with friends or do anything,” Borbon said. “It’s good, I’m going to college, but I’m bummed I won’t see my friends from school or teachers again.”

Prom is the highlight of the spring and prime social event for many students.

The local schools were gearing up for the big dance and putting the final plans in place before the pandemic limitations set in. For Ramses Rodriguez, a junior at Buena, prom and graduation were two of the few remaining times he could hang out with his senior friends.

“It’s hard to see them grow as a person, supporting them and not see their big day,” Rodriguez said.

Tombstone Marshal Bob Randall stands on an empty Allen Street Friday at lunchtime. The Marshal’s office as well as the town of Tombstone have been suffering the negative economic effects of COVID-19.