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Pima County creates task force to develop reopening plan for Tucson-area businesses
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Pima County creates task force to develop reopening plan for Tucson-area businesses

From the April's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: 1,200+ Pima County cases, stay-home order extended series

Pima County developed a set of criteria that must be met before physical distancing restrictions can be loosened.

A task force will be set up to devise a plan to reopen businesses across Pima County, that will keep workers and the public safe during the coronavirus crisis, the county announced this week.

The Back to Business Task Force will include one appointed member of the county’s Small Business Commission from each district, as well as representatives from local businesses such as restaurants, hotels, chambers of commerce, gyms, day cares, personal hygiene services, theatres and event centers. Representatives of other industries may be added as needed or requested, said Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.

“The purpose of the Task Force will be to establish a framework of hygiene and physical distancing standards that need to be developed to begin to reopen, in a limited, phased manner, the commercial and business activities that may have been suspended or substantially interrupted during this time,” Huckelberry wrote in memo April 22.

Among its activities, the task force will develop a set of criteria for reopening in phases, help expedite changes in government regulations and provide guidance to employers to ensure their employees are safe and healthy as they return to the workplace.

Pima County has already developed an initial set of criteria, based on CDC and White House recomendations, that must be met for the beginning of reopening to occur. This includes criteria such as decreasing positive COVID-19 cases over 14 days, testing for all symptomatic patients and timely contact tracing within 24 hours of a positive test result.

“If you listen to our public health officials, they are very cautious about opening up too soon,” Huckelberry said. “When all those boxes turn green, you can pretty much go. But until then, we should be very cautious about moving forward in any particular area.”

At this time, the county has only met one of the nine criteria required to reduce physical distancing standards and move forward to the next phase. The completion of the first phase would result in the reopening of gyms and large venues such as churches, restaurants and theaters with proper social distancing and enhanced sanitation. Schools, bars and visitor restrictions at health-care facilities would remain the same.

The task force will be responsible for monitoring the county’s progress and making recommendations on the establishment of additional phases for reopening.

Overall, county officials say they expect a full reopening to take some time, but they are hopeful that the Back to Business Task Force will help support the community’s transition.

“We’ve put some thought into how we move from where we’re at now to where we need to be, and although there are certain indicators that are very positive, we note other indicators that are still very concerning,” said Pima County’s Chief Medical Officer Francisco Garcia. “All of these things need to be in place before we can think about relaxing standards.”

Contact reporter Jasmine Demers at jdemers@tucson.com. On Twitter: @JasmineADemers

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