Arizona Gov. Ducey Says State Economy Will Reopen When It's Safe
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Gov. Doug Ducey said Monday he will wants to reopen the economy as soon as possible -- but not until it is "safe and healthy for people to do so.''
In a series of tweets, the governor said that, for the moment, he is still looking at April 30 -- the current end date of his stay-at-home order -- as a time to consider allowing people to go places as well as to see what kinds of businesses can reopen.
But the governor said there are multiple variables to be considered, ranging from how business leaders tell him they will be able to safely begin serving customers to the daily data he gets from his Department of Health Services about the number of cases of COVID-19.
Ducey's announcement comes as governors in several other states are making their own plans.
In a joint announcement Monday, Jay Inslee of Washington, Gavin Newsom of California and Kate Brown of Oregon put out their own set of principles to work together "to restart public life and business.'' And the governors of six northeast states also said Monday they will work together on how to go forward -- and do it in a way that does not put each other's residents at risk.
Ducey, for his part, made it clear that while he wants the Arizona economy moving again, he also will not be rushed. More to the point, the governor said he does not want residents to think they can let down their guard.
"Arizonans' efforts to physical distance and make responsible choices are working,'' Ducey said. "It's critical that we keep those efforts up as we plan for the future and a time when we can begin to return some normalcy to people's lives.''
Press aide Patrick Ptak said his boss is listening to the input he is getting.
"We work closely with members of the business community,'' he said. That includes "what their operations would look like'' when they are reopened.
That potentially paves the way for what could be a soft reopening of the economy, allowing businesses like restaurants to start serving on-site meals, but perhaps with greater social distance than before Ducey shuttered all but "essential'' businesses.
Retail and tourism, both of which have taken a hit, also would be in focus.
"This input, along with the advice of public health officials and data on the ground, will drive his decisions at the appropriate time,'' Ptak said.
Arizona has been hard hit by not just the virus itself but first from Ducey's closing down various businesses he considered nonessential and, more recently, by his stay-at-home order.
At a hearing last week, Doug Walls, research administrator for the state Office of Economic Opportunity, said the spike in people filing for unemployment insurance "were employed in the industries you might assume would be impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
"We see a large number of filings of those working in accommodations, food services, retail and administrative types of jobs,'' he told members of the state's Finance Advisory Committee. But Walls said the effects are broader.
"We are seeing a large number of filings also within the healthcare industry, presumably from smaller doctor's offices, general practitioners and other non-emergency related health services,'' he said. In his directives, Ducey ordered a halt to elective medical procedures as a way of conserving personal protective equipment like masks, gowns and gloves.
"And we are seeing an uptick in filings from people who had been previously working in the construction and manufacturing industries ... although not quite as dramatically as the others,'' Walls said.
The move by Ducey and other governors to start looking at a plan to restart their states' economy comes as President Trump, after originally saying that closure decisions were up to governors, is now insisting that he has a role.
"For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government,'' the president wrote on Twitter. "Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect.''
In a separate posting, Trump said "it is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons.''
Still, the president said he is "working closely'' with governors and that "a decision by me, in conjunction with the governors and input from others, will be made shortly.''
Yet just last week, at a White House briefing, Trump said he'd "like to allow governors to make decisions without overruling them, because from a constitutional standpoint, that's the way it should be done.''
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