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Arizona governor lifts stay-home order, allows gyms to open

Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at a news conference regarding the latest updates on the coronavirus May 4, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at a news conference regarding the latest updates on the coronavirus May 4, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

PHOENIX (AP) — Gov. Doug Ducey announced May 12 he'll let gyms and public swimming pools to reopen and will allow his stay-at-home order to expire as he continues allowing normal activities to resume amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Gyms and pools, among the last remaining facilities not allowed to operate, can open their doors May 13. He also invited professional sports to resume without fans. But Ducey warned that lifting the restrictions does not mean to a return to normal way of life before the pandemic.

"This is not a green light to speed," Ducey said. "This is a green light to proceed, and we're going to proceed with caution."

Ducey's stay-home order was set to expire May 15, and he said he won't renew it. The announcement eliminates the threat of criminal penalties for people taking unnecessary trips away from home, but it's still largely symbolic because he'd already carved out a lengthy and growing list of activities that were allowed despite the order.

Ducey said the move is safe because of a declining portion of positive cases, available hospital capacity and the growing ability to test people and trace their contacts.

State health officials reported 20 additional COVID-19 deaths, raising the reported total to 562. There were at least 11,736 recorded cases since the start of the outbreak, though the actual number of people infected is likely much higher.

Several Arizona casinos have announced plans to reopen as early as this week after about two months of silent slot machines, empty card tables and closed doors. Many expect to implement new sanitation measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

Fort McDowell Casino near Fountain Hills, Harrah's Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino in Maricopa, Lone Butte in Chandler, Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, and Vee Quiva in Laveen are all scheduled to reopen Friday.

Fort McDowell Casino plans to reopen in stages, with blackjack returning Friday and bingo returning May 22, the Arizona Republic reported. Visitors are expected to be temperature-checked before they are allowed to enter and must practice social distancing.

Harrah's Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino also plans to reopen in stages with social distancing guidelines while the poker room, spa and fitness center among other amenities will remain closed.

The state Department of Gaming said each casino's decision to close was decided individually by each sovereign tribal nation.

In other developments:

— The Arizona Department of Economic Security said people who received jobless benefits between May 7 and May 11 did not get the additional $600 weekly payment included as a temporary measure in federal coronavirus rescue legislation. The missed payments will go out between May 13 and May 15, said spokesman Brett Bezio. He said the program "requires a lot of complicated coding."

— Nearly all of the people who had been staying at a Flagstaff homeless shelter were provided shelter in 175 rooms in motels by Monday night, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

Flagstaff Shelter Services officials decided May 7 to relocate clients after testing last week showed that 30 percent of clients and staff tested positive.

"I don't know how we're going to pay for it. I don't know how we're going to sustain it in a way that's meaningful to flattening the curve or doing what we need to do, but it's what has to happen," Director Ross Altenbaugh said.

— A Glendale nursing home has had at least 38 residents test positive for COVID-19 with at least seven deaths among them, officials said. Cases so far have been limited to the skilled nursing unit of Glencroft Center for Modern Aging, which also has independent living.

Glencroft also had 31 employees test positive though 15 of those returned to work after twice testing negatively, spokeswoman Mille Oakson said.

— The state court system is being told to plan to transition back to in-person proceedings beginning June 1. An administrative order by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel told courts to resume in-person proceedings where possible but to also continuing to hold some hearings virtually.

Staff and visitors will be required to wear masks, staff will undergo health screenings, and anyone who refuses to wear a mask will be denied entry to the courts, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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