By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Arizona has reached the point where only Gila, Graham and Yuma counties are in the category that now keeps many businesses closed.
Ten counties now have achieved "moderate'' status under the standards for business which are less stringent than for school reopening. That allows movie theaters, fitness centers, gyms and water parks can reopen at reduced capacity. Ditto bars and nightclubs that agree to convert to restaurant-style service.
Forget about going dancing, mixing and generally milling around a favorite bar, though.
Under rules adopted by the health department, they can't reopen until fewer than 3% of tests for COVID-19 come back positive for two weeks in a row. And, even then, customers will be limited to just 50% of capacity.
But if you feel the need to kick up your heels, there are now some options.
Greenlee and LaPaz counties have driven their infection rates so low that they are now classified as having "minimal'' risk, giving businesses there even more leeway.
Gyms and fitness clubs can operate at 50% capacity there, versus 25% in counties rated as having moderate risk.
In fact, the rate of tests coming back positive now has dropped below that 3% threshold. And that means bars and nightclubs can operate pretty much normally, with patrons allowed to dance, play pool, shoot darts or just generally wander about at will. perhaps just to find someone to hook up with for the evening.
Holly Poynter, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health Services, said bar owners in those two counties still will need to take steps to mitigate the risk of infection.
"We recommend that businesses work with their local public health departments to implement the reopening requirements,'' she said.