An executive order signed by Gov. Doug Ducey Thursday has activated the National Guard, canceled all elective surgeries and gives the state the authority to close gyms, movie theaters and bars to contain the COVID-19 virus.
The restaurant, theater and bar closure order applies to counties with confirmed cases, including Navajo, Coconino, Graham, Pima, Maricopa, Pinal, Pima, Yavapai, Yuma, Santa Cruz, Cochise and Apache counties.
Tests have confirmed 234 cases in the state.
So far, Gila, Greenlee, La Paz and Mohave counties do not have any confirmed cases.
“These latest actions are based on the facts and on data and come after careful consultation with public health experts and from every county in Arizona, our hospitals, local elected officials, and private sector partners,” said Ducey in a press release.
The governor will use the National Guard to ensure food access.
Ducey has told National Guard officials he sees a need for 5,500 troops to possibly provide “support to local law enforcement.”
However, that would “not be impeded by Posse Comitatus.”
That 1878 law only allows the use of military to put down civil unrest under an explicit order from the president. The law does not apply if the Guard is “under state command and control.”
and food banks
Due to the “unprecedented demand” for food and other staples, the National Guard will help grocery stores and food banks with “re-stocking shelves in the face of heightened demand.”
The National Guard will also make sure deliveries from warehouses make it to individual stores.
The executive order also increases the capacity of hospitals by halting elective surgeries in the state.
“This will help keep critical personal protective equipment available for the fight against COVID-19,” said the press release.
No county in the state has enough critical care and general hospital beds to handle the rush of cases experienced in countries like Italy and China, which have suffered outbreaks that quickly overwhelmed hospitals — forcing many to set up tents to handle the overflow. Doctors say they’re also suffering already from a critical shortage of masks and protective gear.
Rural counties generally have an older, more vulnerable population and fewer hospital beds.
Gila County has 69 hospital beds and .001 beds per capita, with 28% of the population older than 65.
Navajo County has 114 hospital beds and Apache County has 45 hospital beds, which works out to .0001 per capita.
About 17% of the residents of Navajo County and 15% of the residents of Apache County are older than 65.
All movie theaters, gyms and bars in counties with confirmed COVID-19 cases were ordered to close by Friday, March 20.
“This builds on the previous guidance from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) to ensure one consistent policy across jurisdictions,” said the governor’s press release.
Restaurants will still be able to provide delivery and takeout options. Alcoholic drinks may be delivered with food, “to assist in mitigating the financial consequences of restaurant closures.”
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