Arizona is dropping all of its remaining restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 and opening vaccine eligibility to all residents 16 and older, Governor Doug Ducey said.
‘In Arizona, we never did a shutdown, so it’s impossible to have a grand reopening,’ he said.
‘Instead, we are continuing to take reasonable, safe and sensible steps.’
It comes on the heels of 10 straight weeks of declining daily infection rate in Arizona. The state now has one of the lowest rates of new cases per capita in the nation.
The pattern there is not unlike what was seen in Florida. Both states had massive surges in COVID-19 cases in the summer, finally instated some restrictions (although they were less stringent than many other states’) and have managed surprisingly low rates of infection.
But Florida is now seeing a spike in Covid cases, realizing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr Rochelle Walensky has articulated in recent weeks.
Some Arizona officials fear that Ducey has set the state on the same course, while others see the decision to drop restrictions as a much-needed return to normalcy.
‘In Arizona, we never did a shutdown, so it’s impossible to have a grand reopening’ Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said in a statement announcing his executive order ending restrictions
Arizona has seen 10 weeks of dramatic declines in daily infections, and is now seeing only about nine new cases per capita per day
Ducey described the decision to lift restrictions as the welcome result of having them in the first place.
‘The measures put in place last summer allowed Arizona to fight back COVID-19. I want to thank the local leaders who supported these efforts with their own measures, and the businesses who implemented them,’ he said in a statement announcing his executive order to remove restrictions.
The state will now allow events of 50 or more people – without government approval – and requirements for businesses to remain open will now only be recommendations.
Arizona was among the few hold-out states that never issued a mask order, so it does not have one to lift.
And Ducey said he trusts his constituents will continue to take precautions, without being ordered to do so.
Historically, things haven’t really played out that way when restrictions have been relaxed – including in Arizona.
Deaths have fallen drastically, though more slowly. The state saw 32 new fatalities on Thursday
When the weather warned and COVID-19 cases fell across much of the nation last summer, Arizona was among the dozens of states that relaxed its restrictions.
It paid dearly for those few weeks of freedom, becoming one of the top hot spots in the country.
At the height of Arizona’s summer wave, nearly 5,500 people tested positive in a single day (June 29 – although that peak would be eclipsed by January’s, when Arizona saw 12,412 new cases in a single day).
‘The risk of another surge is real. The governor clearly cares a lot less about the people of Arizona than his political future,’ said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.
Ducey and other state officials also cited the accelerating rollout of vaccines as setting the stage for rolling back restrictions.
But Arizona has a middling rank for its vaccination rate.
Just shy of 15 percent of it population has been fully vaccinated and 25.8 percent have had a first dose.
That’s about in line with the national average, but well below the rate of New Mexico, which leads the nation with 20.6 percent of its population fully vaccinated. One third of New Mexico residents have had at least one shot, according to tracking to Bloomberg.
Eligibility for vaccination is also now expanded to anyone 16 or older, per the executive order Ducey issued Thursday.
But the state won’t immediately have nearly enough supply to meet the demand, which is set to explode.
And only about 11 percent of the population has previously tested positive for COVID-19, meaning the state is a long way from being outbreak-proof.
‘Relaxing these guidelines could counteract the great results we have had in the past weeks. I want normalcy but I also want herd immunity from #COVID19,’ State Rep. Cesar Chavez, a Democrat from Phoenix said.