Governor orders Arizonans to stay home starting Tuesday to slow coronavirus
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Governor orders Arizonans to stay home starting Tuesday to slow coronavirus

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’ 

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has imposed a stay-at-home order that will take effect at the close of business on Tuesday to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

But he said grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential services will remain open, restaurants will continue takeout service and the order doesn't prevent people from going to work, medical appointments or seeking other essential services. He also discouraged hoarding.

“They will remain open, and everyone should continue to buy one week's worth of groceries for one week's worth of needs,” he said.

The governor said he took the action after the state's top health official said it was necessary to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus.

Dr. Cara Christ, who oversees the Department of Health Services, said the rate of cases being seen in emergency rooms has been steadily rising from 2% to nearly 7% of all visits, and the percentage of positive tests had increased to about 6% of samples. She said the rise triggered her recommendation for people to stay at home.

The governor said the order takes effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday for all activity that is not essential, and he said people should still enjoy the outdoors.

“We do not want people to feel trapped or isolated in their homes,” he said. “The weather is beautiful right now. Find a way to get out and enjoy it — with physical distancing.”

Earlier Monday, the mayors of nine cities — including Phoenix and Tucson — sent a letter to Ducey imploring him to issue the stay-at-home order.

Ducey had for weeks resisted making such a call. He prohibited mayors from forcing the closure of businesses on a lengthy list of enterprises deemed essential, from hospitals and grocery stores to golf courses and parks. That order remains in effect.

Arizona had lagged most other states in imposing restrictions. Nearly 230 million people live in states where governors have issued statewide shelter-in-place orders or asked people to stay at home. In other states — including Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania — governors have resisted state-level proclamations or recommendations, but mayors and localities have acted.

State health officials said there are more than 1,150 coronavirus cases and 20 deaths in Arizona. Greenlee County, Arizona's smallest, reported its first case, making it subject to Ducey's orders for bars and gyms to close and restaurants to offer only takeout service in counties with cases of COVID-19. The restrictions now apply statewide with cases reported in all 15 counties.

The existing closures have left many unable to work. Nearly 89,000 people applied for unemployment benefits last week, up from 29,000 a week before and way up from about 3,500 a week before the health crisis.

Ducey said he intentionally issued a stay-at-home order rather than calling for a shelter-in-place order to reduce fear.

“When you use words like ‘shelter in place,' that’s what happens during a nuclear attack, that’s what happens when there’s an active shooter,” Ducey said. “We want people to stay at home. It will have the same type of effect.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The order came hours after Ducey and the state's top school official said schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year.

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