Arizona governor issues stay-at-home order effective Tuesday
Governor closes schools for the rest of the year
PHOENIX (AP) — THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. THE ORIGINAL STORY IS BELOW
Arizona Doug Ducey has imposed a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. But he said grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential services will remain open.
The governor said he took the action Monday after the state's top health director said it was necessary to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus.
The governor said the order takes effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday for all activity that is not essential.
He said grocery stores would stay open, and restaurants would remain open for takeout services. But he discouraged hoarding.
Ducey said people could still go outside.
"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."
The order came hours after Ducey and the state';s; top school official said shuttered schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year.
Arizona officials said Monday that schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year, a move that came as Gov. Doug Ducey faced mounting pressure from mayors to take more aggressive action to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The extended school closure, announced by Ducey and state schools chief Kathy Hoffman, means students will have to use online or alternative learning methods to close out the year. The order affects 1.1 million K-12 charter and traditional school students. Private schools could re-open April 30.
Meanwhile, the mayors of nine cities — including Phoenix and Tucson — sent a letter imploring Ducey to order that people stay home.
"Arizona must not squander this opportunity to learn from the unfolding events in our sister states," the mayors wrote. They say a stay-at-home order would advance the social distancing recommendations from public health experts, which call for people to keep their distance from others.
Ducey has 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.
Ducey says he's following the advice of public health officials, and that the spread of the virus in Arizona doesn't require stricter action at this time. The disease has not spread as much in Arizona as it has in states such as New York and California, he has said.
"We want to do every escalation and elevation ... given the facts, given the science," Ducey said last week, when he was asked why he hadn't issued a stay-at-home order.
The mayors signing the letter represent El Mirage, Flagstaff, Fountain Hills, Guadalupe, Phoenix, Superior, Tolleson, Tucson and Winslow.
Arizona has 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.
Before Monday's extension, Arizona schools were previously scheduled to reopen on April 13. Ducey and Hoffman said the decision to keep them closed is a response to new federal guidance to maintain social distancing practices through at least the end of April. Health authorities recommend people avoid congregating in large groups and maintain at least six feet for separation from others to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
"Today's announcement is intended to give parents and educators as much certainty as possible so they can plan and make decisions," Ducey and Hoffman said in their statement.
The Window Rock School District on the Navajo Nation began online instruction Monday for its 1,900 students after extending spring break. But the district's acting superintendent said it might not be the only solution going forward.
"We know that we have students in outlying areas where there is no running water or electricity, and they're going to have some difficulties," said Leon Ben. "We wanted to take it one step at a time, lay some groundwork in terms of what is working."
The Navajo Nation also implemented a reservation-wide curfew starting Monday, requiring people to be at home after 8 p.m. except for essential workers. The tribe has recorded two deaths and more than 120 cases of the coronavirus among Navajos who live on the reservation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
"We are going to begin to be more strict in these coming days, coming weeks," Navajo President Jonathan Nez said Sunday.
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.
AP reporters Bob Christie in Glendale, Arizona, Felicia Foncesa in Flagstaff and Meghan Hoyer in Washington contributed.