UltraStar Multi-tainment Center Maricopa AZ
Screens may be flickering soon at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. File photo by Bob McGovern

A number of Maricopa businesses still closed due to COVID-19 restrictions may be able to open Thursday.

The Arizona Department of Health Services expects that, based on current data, Pinal County will be in the moderate range for business reopening when the latest statistics are released Thursday, according to a blog post by Cara Christ, M.D., the department’s director. Maricopa and Pima counties are also expected to be in the moderate range.

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Certain businesses – indoor gyms, bars that serve food, indoor theaters and water parks/tubing operators – would be allowed to reopen “if they attest to complying with all requirements, including limiting occupancy and enforcing mask requirements,” Christ wrote.

Moderate community transmission is defined as sustained transmission with high likelihood or confirmed exposure within communal settings and potential for rapid increase in cases. To be considered marginal, counties must have between 10 and 100 cases per 100,000 population, with a positivity rage of 5% to 10%.

As of last Thursday, Pinal County had met one benchmark – less than 100 cases per 100,000 people for two straight weeks – but missed another benchmark by not reporting a decline in cases, according to the health department.

Movie screens have been dark at the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center since March, though it has been showing films on an outdoor screen. A number of gyms in the city, including CrossFit Maricopa, Planet Fitness and Anytime Fitness, plus the fitness facility at Copper Sky, have been closed for months but would be able to reopen.

Guidelines from ADHS will allow movie theaters to reopen at 50% capacity in counties with moderate transmission rates, but like other businesses they must agree to employ strategies to prevent spread of the virus.

Gyms can reopen at 25% and are recommended to take reservations.

Bars and nightclubs, if they move to restaurant service, will be limited to 50% capacity.

A spokeswoman for UltraStar said Tuesday afternoon the theater was working out details for a reopening and will make an announcement “as soon as everything is lined up.” There was no indication of when that announcement might be expected.

The theater has already said it will be employing CinemaSafe, a program promoting protocols and guidelines developed by leading epidemiologists.

In a Facebook post on Aug. 18, CrossFit Maricopa said the state had approved its application for reopening once the county registers in the moderate range.

Businesses that do not comply with mitigation requirements will be subject to strict enforcement. The department said it will continue to partner with local authorities, county health departments and other state agencies to ensure compliance and protect the health of customers and employees.

There were 859 new coronavirus cases reported Tuesday in Arizona with 21 new deaths, according to the health department’s COVID-19 dashboard. The total number of cases is now 20,919 with 553 deaths.

In the 85138 and 85139 zip codes, 1,175 cases have been reported. More than 175 deaths have been reported in Pinal County.