Arizona Governor Adds Restrictions as Number of Infected Increases

A water park sits idle despite temperatures over 100 degrees Tuesday, June 30 in Chandler, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(CN) — Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Thursday limited indoor restaurant seating to half of normal capacity, saying the state plans to be “more prescriptive” as the economy remains largely open and the virus continues to spread.

He urged residents to wear masks and stay home if possible while announcing a planned increase in testing statewide.

“We have had a brutal June in Arizona,” Ducey said, choking up momentarily when he spoke about the 2,038 families who have lost loved ones as of Wednesday.

Arizona has seen a dramatic increase in virtually every Covid-19 metric since mid-May, when Ducey allowed businesses to reopen largely unrestricted, according to the state Department of Health Services. The number of positive tests, hospitalizations and intubations have risen. Nearly 90% of hospital beds are full – 43% of them with Covid-19 patients, the state reported.

The governor announced partnerships with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to “exponentially” increase testing. The testing will start in the Phoenix metropolitan area, where 4.8 million of the state’s 7.3 million residents live.

By the end of July, more than 35,000 people will be tested daily with 60,000 by the end of August, Ducey said.

On Tuesday, former Vice-President Joe Biden lashed out in a statement at the Trump administration for not helping Arizona with testing. People are standing in line for hours in desert heat, and the pleas of local leaders for help went unanswered, Biden said.

“The crisis in Arizona is the direct result of Donald Trump’s failure to lead and his desire to ‘slow the testing down,’ and Americans are suffering the consequences,” he said.

By Wednesday, 841,000 Arizonans had been tested, more than 14,000 on Tuesday alone, the health department reported. In recent days, more than 20% of the tests have come back positive, up from less than 10% in the days before the economy reopened.

On Tuesday, Covid-19 patients filled 3,437 of the state’s 7,956 hospital beds, with 87% of beds filled overall and 89% of intensive care beds full. More than half (861) of the state’s 1,497 intensive care beds were filled by patients. Just 181 ICU beds were available statewide, DHS reported.

Ducey warned that those numbers do not include more than 6,000 emergency “surge” beds that can be brought into service quickly if needed.

The governor acknowledged that increased economic activity means increased Covid-19 activity, pointing to a slight flattening of cases in the 10 days since he re-shuttered bars and water parks and banned gatherings of more than 50 people. He thanked local governments for mask requirements, though he did not issue a state mandate.

“They make a difference in slowing the virus,” he said, adding that almost 90% of the state’s residents are covered by some version of a mask requirement.

Ducey urged Arizonans to binge Netflix or resume their reading habits, to only leave home if they have to.

“Any excuse you can find to stay home will benefit the state of Arizona and help us get through this,” he said.

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