Gov. Doug Ducey is telling business owners that their ability to remain open — and the future of the Arizona economy — will depend on how well they follow the voluntary protocols designed to prevent another outbreak of COVID-19.
During more than a one-hour conference call Thursday, the governor told those on the line about their role in keeping people safe.
“We all know how important that is to rebuild consumer confidence,” he said.
“I know what you’re doing is what’s going to bring our economy back,” the governor said. “I think you have a patriotic duty to open up safely and successfully.”
But the governor said he needs more.
“I’m also asking for your help inside your industry to hold yourselves accountable and your customers accountable, as well as your peers in the industry, that positive peer pressure,” Ducey told them.
He said it’s natural to want to compete for business.
“But we need to be responsible on this,” the governor said.
Ducey is allowing his stay-at-home order to self-destruct at midnight Friday night. He also has expanded the kinds of businesses that can open to include restaurants, bars, beauty salons, fitness centers and movies. (See related story)
The governor said making that work, though, is linked to maintaining “social distancing” to prevent the virus from spreading any further. And that, he said, depends on businesses complying with what are protocols and recommendations to make that happen.
“You are going to determine the success of this economy,” he said, and to rebuilding consumer confidence.
What that self-policing also means, the governor said, is avoiding bad publicity that can undermine the desire of Arizonans to go out.
“Our press is interested in zeroing in on outliers,” he said. “And that seems all they are interested in, not the good work that everyone who’s on this call is doing.”
That theme was repeated as the governor addressed allowing the pools at hotels and resorts to reopen.
“There’s a lot of people in Arizona who need a ‘staycation,’” the governor said.
“Please make sure there is good behavior, that people are safe, and that there’s good optics so we don’t give the media the story they’re looking for,” Ducey said. “Let the story be Arizona’s success and safety and good common sense, just like it’s been for the last nine weeks.”
The plea was personal.
“I’m counting on the folks on the line here,” the governor said.
“Help us with your peers in the industry,” he said. “We don’t need any outliers or bad actors.”
While Ducey used the call to promote the things he already has done, he also had to tell some that the relief they are looking for is not yet available.
Ronen Aviram, general manager of the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, said much of the tourism business relies on hosting conferences and meetings. But at the moment the guidance the state is providing prevents gatherings of more than 10.
Ducey told him there’s nothing he can do right now because that guidance, which comes from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is based on where Arizona is in controlling the virus.
“These phases can go as quickly as 14 days at a time,” the governor said.
Only when there are more positive signs about the spread of the virus can the state ease the rules a bit more. And Ducey said he can’t make any commitment right now when Arizona will get there.
“I really want to be in a position where I’m under-promising and over-delivering,” the governor said, promising to send him a copy of the criteria.
“I think you’ll see where we are right now and where we could be in two or four weeks,” Ducey said.
“I know that might not be the answer that you’re looking for,” he continued. “We’re not there today.”
In response to another question, the governor said any criticism aimed at him because churches and other houses of worship are closed is misdirected.
“The governor doesn’t have the authority to shut down churches,” Ducey said.
“The churches never closed by the hand of the state,” he said, saying those decisions were made by ‘our pastors and our priests and our rabbis.”