Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday that Arizona’s stay-at-home order will expire on May 15.
Ducey said that gyms and pools could reopen tomorrow and Major League Sports could resume without fans in the seats after May 15.
"This does not mean a return to normal," Ducey said. "This is the next step on the way out of this pandemic."
He said vulnerable Arizonans should continue to remain home and urged people to continue social distancing.
Ducey noted that as COVID-19 testing has increased in Arizona, the percentage of positive cases have been dropping, allowing the state to meet CDC criteria for lifting restrictions. Likewise, Arizona has enough hospital capacity to handle a spike of COVID-19 cases.
"Arizona is prepared if things were to take a turn for the worse," Ducey said. "This is a green light on the way out of his pandemic. This is not a green light to speed. It is a green light to proceed cautiously."
Dr. Cara Christ, the director of the Arizona Department of Health, said her staff was moving forward with plans to expand testing in congregate settings. She said the state planned to test all residents and staff at longterm care facilities and was working with the Arizona prison system to test both correctional staff and inmates.
Christ said the state was also working to develop better contact tracing to reach out to people who may have been in contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Ducey has issued a number of emergency declarations since COVID-19 began its spread in Arizona, including a closure of Arizona schools. On March 20, he ordered bars closed and limited restaurants to take out and delivery. Later in March, he issued his stay-at-home order and ordered many so-called “non-essential” businesses to temporarily close their doors.
In late April, Ducey said he was extending the emergency declaration through May 15, but modified it to allow businesses to begin reopening. Last week, retail shops were allowed to resume business and this week, restaurants and bars were given the green light to resume in-house dining and drinking. Businesses that involve people in close contact with each other, such as movie theaters and gyms, remained closed.
Ducey has been criticized by some Arizona conservatives for the stay-at-home order, but public health experts and Democratic lawmakers have griped that he is moving too quickly to reopen. A late April poll by Public Opinion Strategies showed that most Arizonans approved of the effort to slow the outbreak. Roughly six in 10 voters thought his approach had been “just about right,” while 29 percent said he had “not gone far enough” and just 8 percent said he had “gone too far,” according to the poll of 600 registered voters.
Hundreds of thousands of Arizonans have lost their jobs since the outbreak began, with more than a half-million people applying for unemployment benefits in the last two months. Even many businesses that have been able to keep their doors open have experienced sharp drops in revenue. State budget forecasters have said the state could be facing a billion-dollar budget shortfall but advised that with so little data to work from, they could be off by $500 million in either direction.
Today’s announcement came as the state’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 closed in on 12,000, with 562 people dead after contracting the virus. A total of 80 people have died from COVID-19 in Pima County, which was home to 1,623 of the state's 11,736 confirmed cases, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.