As Arizona businesses prepare to reopen, what is the state doing to prevent a virus resurgence?

As Arizona businesses prepare to reopen, what is the state doing to prevent a virus resurgence?

PHOENIX — Three major Arizona counties could meet state benchmarks for businesses to reopen after months of shutdowns. 

The Arizona Department of Health Services says Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties are likely to qualify on Thursday.

One of those businesses set to reopen is the state’s movie theater chain Harkins. 

We all know movie theaters can give us all a chance to escape reality for a couple of hours but as Harkins looks to cast a new script for reopening, but questions remain how will ADHS enforce safety guidelines and will COVID-19 cases continue to fall. 

Harkins Theatres says all employees will wear masks and get daily wellness checks. Seating will be spread out for social distancing. Concessions will be streamlined with a reduced menu and touchpoints. Safety shields will be installed and enhanced cleaning throughout the theatre.  

“The numbers right now in the state of Arizona are encouraging,” said Executive Director of the ASU Biodesign Institute, Dr. Josh LaBaer.

As of Wednesday according to the ADHS COVID-19 Dashboard, there are 199,459 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and 4,896 Arizonans have lost their lives to the virus. 

Gov. Doug Ducey’s office points lower numbers in new cases across the state along with a falling (R-Naught) at .88. Anything below an (R-Naught) of 1 shows the spread of the virus is slowing down. 

Dr. LaBaer says so far steps taken to close down bars, theatres and gyms have worked to slow the spread. This time he believes the public has more of an understanding of the virus and steps needed to keep it under control.

“We know that spacing works. We know that wearing masks works. We know that getting tested regularly for those at highest risk helps. Those are the things at will keep numbers down,” said LaBaer.   

ADHS has already allowed some gyms and businesses to reopen if they provide assurances they are taking the steps to keep the public safe. 

“With the state’s most-populous counties potentially progressing to the next phase of safely resuming business operations tomorrow, certain businesses will be able to join others already operating with reduced capacity and following other strict requirements to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

For businesses to remain open, compliance with public health requirements is critical.

Coordinating with local partners, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and other state agencies are committed to strict enforcement of requirements outlined at www.azhealth.gov/businessCOVID19 for businesses paused by Executive Orders 2020-43 and 2020-52. Additional requirements and guidance are provided in ADHS Emergency Measure 2020-02 . These include businesses requiring the use of masks except when customers are actively eating or drinking, physical distancing of at least six feet, increased cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and strict symptom-checking for employees prior to the start of shifts.

The state will be coordinating complaints received by public health. ADHS is contracting with most local public health departments to investigate complaints and enforce these requirements. For counties that do not contract with the state, ADHS will investigate complaints and initiate enforcement.

Complaint investigations involve inspectors going onsite to substantiate the complaint through observation and interviews with employees and customers. If a business is found to violate the COVID-19 prevention requirements, enforcement action can be taken immediately to protect public health and safety.

There’s a role for the public as well: If you believe a business isn’t following these requirements, which were established for the safety of customers, employees, and the broader public, ADHS encourages you to share your concerns so local and state officials can follow up as needed.

Community members who notice a business not complying with the requirements set forth by ADHS can file a complaint with the following entities:

Complaints will be investigated by the local or state health department, depending upon the jurisdiction. There are multiple ways to file a complaint with ADHS, including:

Businesses that are allowed to resume operations safely when a county reaches the moderate transmission stage on the ADHS Business Dashboard, as is expected to occur Thursday for additional counties, including indoor gyms and fitness centers, indoor theaters, waterparks and tubing, and bars and nightclubs providing dine-in services.

Industry-specific requirements can be found on the ADHS Workplace and Community Locations webpage. Each business that attests to the requirements must post the completed attestation where customers can see it. A list of businesses that have completed attestations can be found here.

While it’s promising news that more counties are progressing to the next stage of safely resuming business operations, Arizonans need to be vigilant and continue practicing proven COVID-19 prevention strategies. It is important to continue wearing masks when in public, physically distance, and stay home when sick. These smart decisions will help keep Arizonans healthy and safe and help us continue to contain the spread of COVID-19.

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.azhealth.gov/COVID-19.

As businesses reopen, ADHS will have several ways the public can report if a business is failing to meet safety guidelines including:

  • Submitting a complaint online and starting tomorrow calling a COVID-19 Compliance Hotline (1-844-410-2157). 

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