Gyms and pools can reopen on Wednesday with implementation of public health protections and CDC guidelines, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced in a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
Arizona is headed in the right direction, Ducey said.
“This is a green light for the way to move forward to being out of the pandemic,” he said. “We are going to proceed with caution.
“The objective is to return stronger as a state,” he added, noting that the idea of social distancing is not going away.
City of Maricopa officials are working Tuesday afternoon on evaluating guidelines for a reopening plan of the gym and pool at the Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, according to Ellen Buddington, communications and events manager in the city’s Community Services Department.
The city plans to announce Wednesday a response and timeline for reopening of the recreational complex and aquatic center, she said.
Lee Feiles, owner of ATA Martial Arts Studio, said while he wasn’t completely surprised at the announcement, he said gyms “were given no warning ahead of time.”
He had already set a goal of May 25 but may accelerate his game plan by a week or so to prepare his gym to meet all guidelines. That means limiting the number of clients to 10 at a time and maximizing social distancing. He said they will also be sanitizing before and after each group training.
Feiles said about half of his clientele continued to participate through his online program on a temporary basis. However, some have been without jobs, and he’s uncertain when they will be able to take classes again. Others, he said, “fell off the face of the earth.”
So, he does not know how much of his clientele he will have to rebuild.
Though he can open his doors tomorrow and knows some gyms in town are ready to do so, he wants to be measured and cautious. That is an echo of an approach espoused by the governor.
“This is a green light to continue going forward on the way out of this pandemic,” Ducey said. “It is not a green light to speed. This is a green light to proceed, and we’re going to proceed with caution.”
Spas and massage therapists can also reopen starting Wednesday.
There is no evidence, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection, that coronavirus can be spread to people through water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas.
But when Copper Sky and other public pools in Maricopa open, patrons will be expected to stay at least 6 feet away from others, refrain from touching eyes, nose or mouth, and use hand sanitizer when getting out of the water. In addition, they should leave their face mask with their towel when in the pool so they have no problems breathing in the water.
People at higher risk for severe illness – including adults 65 and older and those with serious underlying medical conditions – should avoid visiting pools.
Pool operators are required to maintain physical distancing, to the extent possible, and provide additional space between pool chairs at community pools to promote distancing. They also most provide access to soap and water for handwashing or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer at stations around the pool for use by employees and clients. Pools should require lifeguards and other employees to regularly wash their hands for at least 20 seconds.
Ducey said his stay-at-home order will expire Friday because the data indicates declining symptoms, declining percentage of positive tests, adequate hospital capacity and expanded testing.
It will be replaced by a new executive order (pdf), “Stay Healthy, Return Smarter, Return Stronger,” that focuses on vulnerable individuals, he said.
After Friday, there will be a limited reopening of major league sports, but without fans, again with the implementation of public health protections and CDC guidelines, the governor indicated.
With a hint at how future economic data may play out, Ducey said there has been a “complete crush on the system” in unemployment claims and said the state was trying to fix the system to get out from under being overwhelmed. At the same time, he said 80% of Arizona’s workforce did not suffer job loss or a decrease in pay.
Castigated on the subject in a previous news conference, the governor and Dr. Cara Christ, director of the state’s health department, said there is a focus on long-term care facilities and prisons.
After a “testing blitz,” which started slowly three weeks ago, the state has watched the percentage of positive cases decrease the last two weeks. The blitz had aimed for 20,000 tests per weekend but had only about 5,400 the first weekend. Christ said that was followed by 20,000 and then 30,000 when the previous weekly average had been about 11,000.
In Arizona, 562 people have died as a result of COVID-19.
Raquel Hendrickson contributed to this report.