Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued a stay-at-home order on Monday as cases of COVID-19 in the state surged past 1,150 and the number of deaths hit 20.
Describing the new policy as “enhanced physical distancing measures,” Ducey announced at a press conference this afternoon that he had signed an executive order “telling Arizonans to stay home, stay healthy, and stay connected.”
It takes effect at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
The order came more than two months after Arizona reported its first case of the new coronavirus, on January 26, and following weeks of criticism of Ducey for not doing more. His new order came a week after Ducey said that the state would not implement a stay-at-home policy because it wasn’t where other states were at, and two days after the state’s emergency management director resigned, apparently in protest of how Arizona is handling the pandemic.
“Arizonans are directed to limit their time away from home, except for essential services or activities,” Ducey said on Monday, emphasizing that grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants offering takeout and delivery would remain open.
The order allows the “essential services” defined in a previous executive order to remain open, and tells Arizonans to stay at home unless they’re doing “essential activities” like buying food or medicine or helping others do the same — going to work, using services or buying things from “essential businesses.”
When they’re out and about, people will not be required to prove that they’re doing essential activities or using essential services, the order says.
It encourages people to remain “socially connected” and to get outside and exercise, as long as they stay at least six feet away others — as many have begun doing in recent weeks following mass calls for social distancing. It specifically mentions, “walking, hiking, running, biking, or golfing, but only if appropriate physical distancing practices are used.”
The order urges people to “limit use of public transportation to when absolutely necessary” and says that when people do ride the bus or light rail, they should stay at least six feet away from other people.
People who are homeless are exempt from the order “but are strongly urged to obtain shelter as soon as possible,” it says.
During the press conference, Ducey urged people not to hoard when they went out for supplies. “Everyone should continue to buy one week’s worth of groceries for one week’s worth of needs,” Ducey said.
Telling people not to be isolated at home, he added, “The weather’s beautiful right now. Find a way to get out and enjoy it — with physical distancing.”
People playing volleyball by Tempe Town Lake on March 29, 2020.
This physical distancing order “can continue to help slow the spread,” he said. “Already, there’s evidence that the steps we’ve taken to date are making a difference,” he added, without providing that evidence.
On Monday, nine Arizona mayors, including Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, wrote the governor asking him to “immediately formalize a statewide Stay-At-Home order.”
They pointed out that so far, 28 other states that are home to more than half of Americans “have already officially urged everyone to stay home.”
“The ever-increasing numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths serve as a stark indicator of what is to come if we do not take action now,” they warned.
During the press conference, he dodged a specific question about enforcement mechanisms for the shelter-in-place order, instead telling reporters to read the order itself, which says that “prior to any enforcement action being taken … a person shall be notified and given an opportunity to comply.”
He also echoed the claim he made when declining to order a shelter-in-place policy about Arizona not being “there yet” or in the “same stage as other states.”
On Monday, he said, “Arizona is a different position than other places,” adding that “this decision was made with Arizona-specific data.”
Due to a dearth of testing, it remains impossible to know the full spread of the new coronavirus in Arizona. To date, fewer than 17,000 Arizonans have been tested for it.