Arizona Governor Not Ready To Further Relax Social Distance

By Ben Giles
Associated Press
Published: Thursday, May 21, 2020 - 8:53am

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey discusses the latest data on COVID-19 at a press briefing on May 20, 2020.

Gov. Doug Ducey said Wednesday people in Arizona are acting responsibly since he loosened restrictions on businesses, but he’s not ready yet to open new sectors of the economy.

Ducey said he has an “aspirational” goal for schools to reopen on schedule in August, and he’s hopeful summer camps and youth activities will be open soon.

Schools have been closed since March, when Ducey and schools chief Kathy Hoffman shut them due to staffing concerns stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. Hoffman has formed a task force of education leaders to write plans for the safe reopening of schools. Ducey said he’s working with school leaders on a plan to safely resume school in the fall.

"We are aspirational for what’s possible and we are thinking ahead of what’s next. Our goal is we want to open up summer camps, schools and youth activities. So we are planning ahead," Ducey said in a news conference.

Ducey said Arizona continues to trend in the right direction when it comes to addressing the spread of COVID-19. The Republican governor said he sees “zero evidence” that Arizona will have a surge in coronavirus infections as social distancing measures relax. But he suggested he's willing to re-impose restrictions if necessary.

“I am going to use every tool that’s available to a governor to do what’s in the best interest of Arizona,” Ducey said.

Gov. Ducey also announced Wednesday that the phones will be open over Memorial Day weekend to help those who need jobless benefits.

Ducey said the Arizona Department of Economic Security paid more than $355 million last week in benefits through a program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

The program helps those who are ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits, like those who are self-employed.

"The DES call center will be open to assist on Sunday and Monday which is Memorial Day between 9:30 and 5 p.m."

Arizonans can file for those benefits retroactive back to Feb. 2

In other coronavirus developments:

  • Arizona paid more than $500 million in jobless benefit payments last week as the Department of Economic Security caught up with weeks of overdue benefits for thousands of applicants who are unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is implementing a mandatory face mask policy starting June 1 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The University of Arizona has recruited former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, a longtime faculty member, to help oversee its reopening plans. Carmona joined university President Robert Robbins at a news conference Wednesday in Tucson. Both men said the school is aiming to reopen this fall in a hybrid fashion of both in-person and online instruction. The school also wants to reopen dorms but with multiple changes. These will likely include masks being available, enforcement of proper social distancing and no more than two students assigned to a room.

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