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Mon, Sept. 21

Some call for end to COVID-19 rules as Arizona cases decline

A worker picks up one of the dozens of pallets of more with one million pieces of PPE to help Phoenix schools reopen for the 2020-2021 school year fill a Phoenix Convention Center hall as the City of Phoenix begins to ship the pallets out to schools Sept. 8, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A worker picks up one of the dozens of pallets of more with one million pieces of PPE to help Phoenix schools reopen for the 2020-2021 school year fill a Phoenix Convention Center hall as the City of Phoenix begins to ship the pallets out to schools Sept. 8, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona health officials reported Sept. 8 just over 80 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and two deaths, fueling some business owners to call for an end to operating restrictions.

The Department of Health Services reported an 81 additional cases statewide. The last time the state saw a daily case count below 100 was in March, according to online data.

So far, 5,221 people in the state have died of the disease caused by the coronavirus, and there have been 206,045 confirmed cases. The state, once a national hot spot for infections, continues to see a downward trend in infections and hospitalizations.

The number of reported infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Despite the decline in case and hospitalization numbers, officials warned the public to keep up preventive measures over the Labor Day weekend.

About 100 people including local business owners held a demonstration on Monday at the state Capitol, calling for an end to all COVID-19 restrictions, the Republic reported. Among them was Republican State Rep. John Fillmore, who compared mask mandates to Holocaust victims in Nazi Germany "when people on their own bodies were tattooed."

Attorney General Mark Brnovich recently challenged Gov. Doug Ducey's executive order allowing some businesses to partially reopen. Brnovich has argued it arbitrarily discriminates against some businesses.

A bar in Chandler was shut down Sept. 7 after apparently violating COVID-19 restrictions.

On Sept. 8, a judge denied a request by a group of bar operators to prohibit enforcement of Ducey's executive order in late June that shut down bars. Some of the bars have been allowed to reopen as spread of the virus has lessened.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Pamela Gates concluded the governor's orders on bars "are rationally related to expert data and guidance on minimizing the spread of COVID-19 in our community."

With school districts in metro areas of Tucson and Phoenix able to return to partial in-person instruction under metrics developed by state health and education officials, some that have moved to reopen are facing staffing issues.

A suburban Phoenix high school that had to delay its planned Sept. 8 opening because of a lack of staff will open on Sept. 9.

Cactus Shadows High School Principal Tony Vining announced that the Cave Creek Unified School District's sole high school would open for in-person instruction, although it may still be short teachers.

Students will attend class in rooms with regular or substitute teachers, and if coverage isn't available they will be sent to "a safe area for attendance and to complete work assigned by the absent teacher." Those areas will be monitored by school employees.

Vining was forced to call off the Sept. 8 planned return to in-person instruction because the school didn't have enough staff available to "safely open." The Sept. 8 instruction was done through distance learning that has been in place since the start of the school year.

Some schools have already reopened for in-person instruction. But J.O. Combs Unified in San Tan Valley was thwarted last month because numerous teachers called in sick while voicing concerns about safety.

That district finally reopened for in-person instruction Sept. 8, according to 12 News (KPNX-TV ), although it was optional and parents could choose to continue online learning for their children.

To help districts prepare for students to return to class, the city of Phoenix Sept. 8 began distributing more than one million pieces of personal protective equipment it ordered for schools. The equipment includes sanitizer, gowns and face masks with clear windows so that students, especially those with hearing or learning impairments, can see their teachers' facial expressions.

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