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Arizona governor calls up National Guard, restricts businesses in Coconino County and others

Gov. Doug Ducey (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Gov. Doug Ducey (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

PHOENIX (AP) — PHOENIX (AP) — On March 19, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered all bars, theaters and gyms to close and restaurants to be restricted to takeout and drive-thru service in counties with known COVID-19 cases, which include Coconino County. This decision negates the recent decision by the city of Williams to allow businesses to operate as usual. Ducey is also activating the National Guard to help grocery stores and food banks, and is halting elective surgeries.

The counties included in the restrictions include six Arizona counties: Maricopa, which had 22 cases as of Thursday; Pinal, which had 10; Pima, which had seven; Navajo, which had three; Coconino, which had three; and Graham, which had one.

The directive will take effect upon close of business Friday, March 20.

Ducey intensified his response to the coronavirus outbreak under growing pressure from other elected officials to take more aggressive action. His actions came on a day public health authorities reported the biggest day-to-day jump in cases, from 30 to 44.

Ducey says on Twitter his orders will ensure grocery shelves remain stocked and preserve the ability of hospitals to manage an influx of cases. In six counties, bars, movie theaters and gyms will be required to close and restaurants will be restricted to takeout and drive-thru service.

"These actions are based on the facts and on data, and come after careful consultation with public health experts from every county in Arizona, our hospitals, local elected officials, and private sector partners," Ducey wrote on Twitter.

Ducey had for days recommended that people avoid crowds but stopped short of a statewide mandate for businesses to close or people to stay home. Tempe — a nightlife hotspot — on Thursday joined cities including Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and Sedona that have ordered bars and gyms to close while restaurants offer only takeout or drive-thru service.

Ducey's delay in acting had echoes of his foot-dragging on closing schools. The second-term governor took that action last Sunday after school district officials across metro Phoenix had ignored his calls from the week before not to close schools to stop the spread of the virus.

"Maybe today is the day we can convince @dougducey to take action and enforce the new WH/CDC guidelines to keep Arizonans safe and save lives. Please help," Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema wrote on Twitter Thursday morning.

She followed up minutes after Ducey's announcement: "Turns out, Arizona — today IS the day!!" But she called for Ducey to go farther and expand the business closures statewide.

Williams-Grand Canyon News reporter Wendy Howell contributed to this story.

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