State health officials have given dozens of gyms, bars and theaters the green light to reopen after reviewing their plans to limit the spread of COVID-19 among customers.
After ordering bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks to close in June, Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Health Services recently unveiled new guidelines for when those businesses could reopen based on the rate coronavirus is spreading in a given county.
As part of the complex reopening plan, businesses are allowed to apply to reopen with special precautions. As of Aug. 20, DHS said it has received more than 1,000 applications from companies, leaving many with questions about what the specifics of reopening will look like in the time of coronavirus.
We asked @azcentral Instagram followers what they wanted to know about businesses reopening in Arizona. Here are some of your most frequently asked questions.
Why were some bars, gyms and other businesses allowed to reopen and not others?
Last week, Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Health Services unveiled complex new guidelines regarding when businesses can reopen based on the rate COVID-19 is spreading in a given county.
Counties are rated in one of three categories for community spread — substantial, moderate and minimal — and the less community spread, the more freely businesses can be open and more guests can enter.
Businesses in counties with substantial spread can apply to reopen early but must offer an outline of the precautions they plan to take that go above and beyond those outlined by the state. Health officials will review their applications within 15 days and make a decision, Dr. Cara Christ said. Businesses can appeal denials.
More than 600 companies shut down by Ducey’s June 29 order have applied to reopen. Dozens have been cleared by the state to reopen, but dozens more have also had their applications rejected.
What criteria did businesses have to meet in order to reopen?
Businesses in counties with substantial COVID-19 spread that want to reopen early must submit an application to state health officials outlining preventive measures that go above and beyond the state’s measures. Each business is selected on an individualized basis.
Residents and businesses can track community benchmarks and reopened businesses using an online state dashboard.
What precautions are businesses required to take when reopening?
Within the guidelines set by ADHS, all businesses are required to:
- Promote healthy hygiene practices;
- Intensify cleaning, disinfection and ventilation practices;
- Monitor for sickness;
- Ensure physical distancing;
- Require masks;
- Provide necessary protective equipment;
- Allow for and encourage teleworking where feasible;
- Provide plans, where possible, to return to work in phases; and
- Limit the congregation of groups of no more than 10 persons when feasible and in relation to the size of the location.
Does this mean it’s safe to go to businesses that have been cleared to reopen?
That depends. The Arizona Department of Health released a chart last month that outlines the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 while doing certain activities. Working out at an indoor gym or going to a bar, for example, are considered “high risk” activities. Eating inside at a restaurant is considered “moderate-high risk,” while eating outside at a restaurant is “moderate-low risk.”
When a business reopens, will employees have to be tested regularly for COVID?
The state’s guidelines for reopening do not require businesses to test employees for COVID-19, but they do require employees to be screened for symptoms (temperature checks, etc.) prior to each shift.
If a case or an outbreak of COVID-19 is reported at a business, is it required to shut down again?
Nothing in the state’s guidelines explicitly requires businesses to shut down if an employee (or employees) test positive for COVID-19.
Maricopa County’s business guidance says: “Public Health does not recommend businesses close down if an employee tests positive. If someone gets sick at work, the business should follow guidelines for helping to safely separate that sick employee from others and implement cleaning procedures.”
What are the new safety protocols for gyms and fitness centers to reopen?
Indoor gyms and fitness centers are required to implement safety protocols such as physical distancing of more than 6 feet, temperature checks at the door for all guests, limiting the number of people in organized exercise classes and mandating the use of masks. See the state’s full list of protocols here.
Do Arizona’s reopening guidelines apply to apartment gyms?
Ducey’s executive order in June applied to all indoor gym and fitness centers, including apartment gyms, meaning the standard reopening guidelines also apply to apartment gyms.
Do I have to wear a mask while working out?
Yes. You must wear a mask while at the facility, but the requirement does not apply to children under 2 years old and anyone who has trouble breathing or who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
STILL CLOSED: DHS rejects dozens of bar, gym reopening plans
Bars and restaurants
How can we go to restaurants safely?
Restaurants are required to enforce certain health and safety guidelines. They include enforcing physical distancing of 6 feet, limiting parties to 10, and requiring masks and frequent handwashing for “all servers, host staff and employees that interact with customers.” Additionally, restaurants must remain at 50% capacity until its county reaches minimal levels of community spread.
We’re from out of state. Is there dine-in seating at restaurants?
Some restaurants have reopened for dine-in service. A statewide executive order enacted July 11 limits indoor dining at restaurants to less than 50% capacity.
What are the restrictions for bars?
Occupancy restrictions differ for bars not operating as restaurants versus those providing dine-in service. Bars and nightclubs without a significant restaurant element cannot reopen until a county’s infection rate falls below 3%. Even then, they can only reopen at 50% occupancy.
When can more movie theaters reopen?
Movie theaters have to make their case for reopening to state health officials, proposing preventative measures beyond the state’s reopening guidelines. Harkins, Arizona’s largest movie theater chain, announced Friday that it will open three Arizona locations — in Flagstaff, Prescott Valley and Sedona — on Aug. 28, “with hopefully more Arizona theatres announced very soon.” DHS has approved reopening plans for the following theaters: Invisible Theatre, Tucson; Alamo Chandler; Alamo Tempe; Alamo Gilbert.
How are movie theaters reopening safely?
Indoor theaters are required to ensure employees and guests follow guidelines outlined by the state. Aside from basic requirements like wearing a mask and social distancing of more than 6 feet, according to the ADHS, theaters are required to:
- Schedule staggered showtimes to prevent congregating in waiting areas.
- Arrange concession areas, entrances, ticket lines, waiting areas, lobbies, and hallways to enforce physical distancing.
- Post signs educating customers and employees of expectations and guidance.
- Where possible, implement one-way traffic for entrance to and egress from the facility.
- Wipe any touchpad, counter or hard surface between use.
- Ensure that ventilation systems of indoor spaces operate properly.
When are water parks allowed to reopen?
Water parks can make their case for reopening to state health officials, proposing preventative measures beyond the state’s reopening guidelines. As of Wednesday, no water parks have been given the green light to reopen. View the Health Department’s list of reopening benchmarks for water parks and tubing businesses here.
Are gatherings of over 50 people allowed again yet?
Mass gatherings and organized events of more than 50 people remain prohibited under Gov. Ducey’s executive order, even if appropriate physical distancing is possible.
Republic reporters Lauren Saria and Ryan Randazzo contributed to this report.
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