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In about-face, Arizona shuts bars, pools again to curb coronavirus

                                Medical personnel prepared to test hundreds of people lined up in vehicles in Phoenix’s western neighborhood of Maryvale for free COVID-19 tests on Sunday.
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Medical personnel prepared to test hundreds of people lined up in vehicles in Phoenix’s western neighborhood of Maryvale for free COVID-19 tests on Sunday.

PHOENIX >> Arizona’s governor ordered bars, nightclubs and water parks to close again for at least a month starting Monday night — a dramatic about-face as coronavirus cases surge in the Sunbelt.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey also ordered public schools to delay the start of the classes at least until Aug. 17. Many districts planned to start the school year in late July or early August. His orders can be extended.

“We can’t be under any illusion that this virus is going to go away on its own,” Ducey said.

Arizona emerged from stay-at-home order in mid-May, but infections have since begun spiking. On Sunday, it reported 3,858 more confirmed coronavirus cases, the most in a single day for the state and the seventh time in recent days that the daily toll surpassed the 3,000 mark.

While Ducey has urged Arizonans to keep their distance from one another in public, he refused to issue a statewide order to wear masks and until recently resisted calls by some cities to allow them to require masks.

Most Arizona bars and nightclubs reopened when the stay-at-home order lifted, and scenes of packed clubs and bars were common. Pools at hotels and motels and municipal pools are also being shuttered, as are gyms, movie theaters and a popular tubing location on the Salt River east of metro Phoenix.

Arizona’s move comes as many states in the South and West are seeing a new surge of infections as businesses reopen and warmer weather draws people together. Places such as Texas, Florida and California are also backtracking, closing beaches and bars in some cases.

It also comes less than a week after President Donald Trump visited the Arizona-Mexico border and held a rally in Phoenix in which few people wore masks.

If the closure order isn’t extended and the businesses are allowed to reopen at the end of July, local health officials and law enforcement will be able to enforce strict social distancing and limit how many people can enter.

Private pools at apartment complexes can remain open, but they must limit gatherings to no more than 10 people.

The governor is also reestablishing a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, and the state liquor department is ending the issuance of special-use alcohol permits.

A month ago, Ducey announced schools would reopen after the summer break, even as the state was seeing an uptick in metrics used to track the progression of the virus. At the time, he said he was announcing the decision to give parents and administrators time to plan ahead.

The state on Friday told hospitals to implement their crisis care plans — a move that shows hospitals are at or near capacity and are expected to go over-capacity.

Hospitals were required under orders issued early in the state’s pandemic response to plan to add 50% to their capacity when they go to crisis care levels. Extra regular and intensive care beds will be added — and some people may get lower standards of care or be discharged earlier than they normally would be.

If a hospital goes over capacity, they’ll have to end all non-emergency surgeries.

Statewide, hospitals were at 84% capacity Sunday. It’s unclear when hospitals are expected to reach 100%.

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