Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey lifted restrictions on businesses and events in the state, effectively paving the way for live events to return at the discretion of event operators and venues. The Republican announced the changes Thursday, alongside a new rule prohibiting local authorities from enforcing mask mandates outside of government property or public transporatation.
“In Arizona, we never did a shutdown, so it’s impossible to have a grand reopening,” Ducey says. “Instead, we are continuing to take reasonable, safe and sensible steps. The measures put in place last summer allowed Arizona to fight back COVID-19. Today, we are in a different spot.”
Ducey’s ruling means that events allowing more than 50 people no longer will require approval from the government to go forward. In effect, what had previously been requirements for local event operators have been shifted to be recommendations, which means concerts, sporting events, and other live entertainment can go forward at whatever level operaters and venues feel comfortable.
While case numbers in the state are declining as vaccinations continue, public health officials expressed concern that such a rollback may be premature.
“The numbers are encouraging, because we’re doing mitigation strategies and vaccinations right now,” Dr. Ross Golberg, surgeon and president of the Arizona Medical Association says. “We don’t want to let up.”
Local authorities also expressed displeasure at the move to strip them of their ability to enforce mandates for their communities as they see fit depending on specific local circumstances. “It is unfortunate that Gov. Ducey is caving to political pressure from the far right instead of following the science and doing what’s best for Arizonans,” says Tucson mayor Regina Romero, a Democrat.
While the change will allow unfettered reopening for Arizona businesses, many are planning to continue to adhere to public health recommendations for crowd capacity and social distancing.
“The challenging part will be what the rest of the country does,” says Ralph Marchetta, general manager at Phoenix Suns Arena. “For an artist to route a tour, if you’ve still got a large number of states or municipalities that are shuttered, it just becomes more difficult. So I don’t think in the short term, it’s going to change a whole lot.
“Obviously it’s good news and a good sign,” he continued. “And I think it just means we’re all headed in the right direction. I’m hoping that by August, September, we’re back in the concert business. And that’s my expectation. If it’s sooner, that’d be a bonus.”
Currently, the Arizona Diamondbacks plan to host up to 25 percent of stadium capacity for home games as the 2021 season gets underway next week. It is unclear whether or not the team will adjust that number upward in the wake of Doucey’s announcement.