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Gov. Doug Ducey lifts all remaining COVID-19 restrictions on Arizona companies and occasions – The Arizona Republic

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Gov. Doug Ducey lifts all COVID-19 restrictions. (Photo: David Wallace/The Republic)

Citing expanded vaccine distribution and declining case numbers, Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday lifted COVID-19 restrictions on Arizona businesses and events and prohibited, in most cases, the enforcement of local mask mandates.

In a surprise announcement, the Republican leader said events drawing more than 50 people, such as youth sports tournaments and concerts, would no longer require governmental approval.

He gave bars the go-ahead to resume regular operations, saying previously required mitigation measures for other businesses would become “recommendations.” 

And he stripped cities and counties of their power to enforce mask mandates, except in government buildings or on public transportation. 

“In Arizona, we never did a shutdown, so it’s impossible to have a grand reopening,” Ducey said in a statement. “Instead, we are continuing to take reasonable, safe and sensible steps.

“The measures put in place last summer allowed Arizona to fight back COVID-19,” he continued, thanking businesses and local leaders for implementing them. “Today, we are in a different spot.”

The announcement comes one day after Arizona opened COVID-19 vaccine appointments to those 16 years old and older.

While Ducey touted the 3 million doses already administered by the state, only 1.2 million — about 20% of Arizona adults — are fully vaccinated. The state would need to vaccinate 70% to 85% of its residents to reach herd immunity, according to epidemiologists. 

The governor also pointed to declining COVID-19 case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths to support Thursday’s rollback — metrics that have indeed dropped for weeks. But public health experts have warned against reversing course on prevention measures too quickly, as new strains of the virus continue to emerge and spread. 

“The numbers are encouraging, because we’re doing mitigation strategies and vaccinations right now,” said Dr. Ross Golberg, Phoenix general surgeon and president of the Arizona Medical Association. “(But) we don’t want to let up. I’m concerned that people will become too relaxed.”

Dr. Farshad Fani Marvasti, a physician and associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix, similarly worried that lifting restrictions now could backfire by giving unvaccinated Arizonans a “false sense of security and safety.”

He would’ve preferred to see mitigation measures phased out incrementally, beginning when 60% of the state was vaccinated, he said. And he would have liked to see a commitment to reversing course if benchmarks shifted in the wrong direction.

“We’re still not completely out of this,” he said. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Republic reporters Stephanie Innes and Alison Steinbach contributed to this report.

Reach the reporter at maria.polletta@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter @mpolletta.

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