(CN) — Arizona Governor Doug Ducey banned gatherings of more than 50 people statewide on Monday and closed bars, gyms, theaters, and water parks for 30 days, citing a rising tide of Covid-19 cases that has stressed the state’s health care system.
“We can’t be under any illusion that this virus is going to go away on its own,” Ducey said in a news conference announcing the bans. “We simply cannot let up.”
The order does not apply to churches or restaurants and covers private and public pools and other outdoor and indoor activities. The state liquor board will stop issuing special event licenses. Cities and counties can authorize bigger events, but only if they adhere to mitigation measures, including social distancing, Ducey said.
The governor also delayed the start of school to Aug. 17.
The Arizona Department of Health Services reported Sunday that 1,588 Arizonans have died from the virus out of 74,533 identified cases. Just 12% of the state’s 1,710 adult care beds were available with the percentage of beds occupied by Covid-19 patients rising. Hospitals were also nearing capacity on regular beds, with 85% of those occupied.
State health department Director Dr. Cara Christ on Monday announced activation of a state emergency system that will spark more extensive planning for increased Covid-19 cases. Banner Health, the state’s largest hospital provider, last week announced it is prepared to access 2,600 regular and 600 ICU surge beds.
On Thursday, Ducey backed off from his mid-May offering of a “green light” to reopen the economy, calling it a green light to move ahead, not a green light to speed. But “bad actors” ignored business requirements for social distancing and masks — leading to charges for several businesses, Ducey said.
Ducey’s stance is a reversal from the beginning of the state’s Covid-19 crisis. His original emergency order barred cities, towns and counties from requiring masks or any Covid-19 measures more strict than the state. After Ducey allowed cities to require masks, many cities — including Pima County and Phoenix, which include more than 1.5 million of the state’s 7.2 million residents — immediately required them in public.
On Monday, the governor thanked Arizonans for wearing masks and maintaining distance, urging everyone to do their part, especially by wearing masks, and to be prepared for a long haul.
“We’re not going back to normal any time soon,” he said.