PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Health Services on Monday released a series of data-driven benchmarks that gyms, fitness centers, bars, and movie theaters -- all industries that have been closed for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic -- must meet in order to open, most at a reduced capacity.
"It’s been a nightmare in all honesty," said Carol Nalevanko, President of Village Health Clubs and Spas. For the past six weeks, all four of their Valley locations have been closed.
"We are receiving absolutely no revenue at all," said Nalevanko, who lamented having to furlough her employees.
Every day since Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s executive order that ordered bars and gyms to close, Nalevanko has been eagerly awaiting an update from the governor's office.
Monday, she got one in the form of benchmarks. "We are a little bit disappointed. That’s probably an understatement," she said.
Arizona's Department of Health Services recommended all shuttered industries stay closed and are only allowed to reopen when their county reaches certain benchmarks related to COVID-19 percentage of positivity, and COVID-like illnesses.
Right now, officials estimate Maricopa County is likely weeks from reopening anything. Since the most recent data has all three categories as substantial, and all the benchmarks have to be met for 14 days.
"It creates confusion," said Matt Deskins, General Manager of Outlaws Bar in Cave Creek. "It’s not exactly fair. It’s kind of a slap in the face to established bars."
Furthermore, the businesses have to sign an attestation form saying they will comply with mitigation strategies.
"Why are we one of the only businesses asked to sign an attestation form to begin with? Why are we being singled out?" wondered Nalevanko.
Deskins also pointed out what he thought were blatant inconsistencies in the state.
"If you go to any Fry's, Bashas or Walmart… just the parking lot has well over 50 people gathering,” he said.
The health department says these businesses naturally lead to close congregation and pose a higher risk of spreading the virus.
This latest reopening plan, with clear metrics, ensures Arizona has a handle on the pandemic unlike the prior reopening, when the state saw a massive surge and minimal compliance with suggested guidelines which were hardly enforced.
Businesses though, are looking at the metrics and their bank accounts, and wondering which one is going to run out first.
"I think some people are losing patience. And it’s not even about patience. They’re scared. We are losing so much money," said Nalevanko.
Nalevanko said she thinks the health club will survive "a month or two at best."