Arizona Gov. Ducey Balancing Health With Economics In Decision To Leave Restaurants Open Statewide

By Holliday Moore
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Thursday, March 19, 2020 - 8:57am
Updated: Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - 1:45pm

Dr. Cara Christ and Gov. Doug Ducey
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Dr. Cara Christ and Gov. Doug Ducey on March 11, 2020.

As Arizona’s three major cities closed in-dining restaurants and bars on Tuesday in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, a letter went out to health care providers from the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

“The bottom line is that there is enough spread in Maricopa County that everyone should assume they have had some contact with a person with COVID-19,” chief epidemiologist Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine wrote to all Maricopa County healthcare providers.

Nevertheless, Gov. Doug Ducey has defended his decision to avoid closing restaurants and bars statewide, preferring to rely on data from the federal government and the state Department of Health Services, led by Dr. Cara Christ. 

“I am following the guidance of Dr. Christ and the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health,” he announced. “Our decisions have been guided by subject-matter experts and informed by the facts."

Ducey said he respects that Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff ordered citywide closures at dine-in restaurants and bars on Tuesday.

He admitted cases will escalate, but said he has to balance both the health and economic risks for the entire state.  

In the meantime, Sunenshine’s letter echoed other recommendations for social distancing and limiting gatherings to no more than ten people.

“We all need to stop shaking hands, hugging and kissing (outside of our immediate families) until we’re past this,” she wrote, adding that Arizonans should limit social activities to a few healthy people at a time.  

“That recommendation stands for at least eight weeks,” she predicted, “or until we get through this outbreak.”

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