Arizona's liquor department has begun cracking down on bars and restaurants that don't require their employees and patrons to take safety measures to prevent or slow COVID-19 spread, Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday.
The state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control took enforcement action Tuesday against a Scottsdale nightclub, Riot House, among other establishments, Ducey said at a news conference updating the state's COVID-19 pandemic status.
"The crowded social gatherings we've seen must be minimized," Ducey said.
Much of the identified problem so far has been in downtown Scottsdale, where viral videos have shown wall-to-wall drinkers, all unmasked.
Most Arizona businesses have been responsible and innovative in dealing with the pandemic, but "bad actors need to be held accountable," Ducey said.
He said he issued additional guidance last week on safety measures required for restaurants and bars, and allowed local enforcement actions starting last week. Scottsdale police, among others, have also taken action this week against certain bars, issuing a misdemeanor citation to Riot House, for instance, for not requiring social distancing and masks as required locally, The Arizona Republic reported.
However, Ducey stopped short of issuing any new executive orders to deal with the record numbers of COVID-19 cases Arizona is seeing and the fact, he said, that hospitals "are likely to hit surge capacity very soon."
He said the rate of spread is "unacceptable," but added: "This is about public education and personal responsibility."
He urged all Arizonans to wear masks, practice social and physical distancing, to wash their hands and to stay home when sick, and also said: "You are safer at home and you can stay healthy at home."
The Republican governor was pressed by reporters to explain why he attended President Trump's rally in Phoenix on Tuesday where a few thousand attendees were allowed to gather at an indoor venue with many not wearing masks. Ducey wore a mask throughout that event but many others, including the president, did not. The governor was asked whether that set a bad example or sent a mixed message.
"People's rights to assemble are not going to be infringed in Arizona in an election year or any year," Ducey said.
The governor emphasized that his goal is to save lives and to protect livelihoods, "not either/or, but both."
Ducey said COVID-19 is widespread in Arizona. "It's growing and it's growing fast, across all age groups and demographics. ... Our time of getting hit is now: June, July and August. ... This is Arizona's first wave and will not be our last wave."
He said the situation is "manageable," but warned, "We expect that our numbers will be worse next week and the week after in cases and hospitalizations."
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June's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Bars, gyms face shutdowns; Tucsonans worried telemedicine might disappear
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