PHOENIX — The director of UArizona’s public health program in Phoenix is calling on Governor Doug Ducey to reintroduce closures and restrictions on certain indoor activities, including at restaurants, bars and gyms.
“If we had done the public health measures correctly both in the state as well as nationally the first time, we wouldn’t be here now,” Dr. Shad Marvasti told ABC15.
Like most of the country, Arizona is dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and ICU bed use. Shad said the state is now effectively doubling the number of new cases every two weeks. He believes further mitigation measures, such as restricting “high risk” indoor activities like indoor dining, could make a significant difference as doctors fear the flu season coupled with holiday gatherings could further exacerbate the spread of the coronavirus and overwhelm hospitals.
“We saw a 75% decrease in cases,” Shad said, referring to Governor Ducey’s March executive order restricting and effectively shutting down certain types of businesses. “I don’t think anything has changed in terms of that working. That can work again.”
Still, restaurant owners like Sheldon Knapp fear their businesses are being “unfairly” blamed for the spike in cases.
“Restaurants were operating through the early part of the fall and most of the summer without cases spiking,” he told ABC15.
Knapp said he was able to keep most employees at his restaurant, Phoenix City Grille, employed through the first shutdown order, but that won’t be possible if he’s forced to switch to takeout-only service again.
“As this thing goes deeper and deeper and longer and longer, the more we’re eating into the savings … so at some point, it’s going to put us in a very precarious position,” he said.
Shad believes further restrictions need to be more holistic, with the state and federal government aiding businesses that are forced to close down or severely restrict service.
“It shouldn’t just be, ‘we’re going to shut down, and you guys figure it out,’” he said. “It’s more like, targeted closures of indoor activities — switch to outdoors — and what resources and relief packages can we put together with tax dollars?”