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- Governor Ducey Announces Latest Actions To Fight COVID-19, Increase Hospital Staffing
Governor Ducey Announces Latest Actions To Fight COVID-19, Increase Hospital Staffing
Governor Doug Ducey announced Wednesday a series of meaningful actions to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Arizona, support our hospitals and frontline health care workers, and provide the state’s hard-hit restaurants with the resources needed to keep patrons and staff healthy.
Speaking at the State Public Health Laboratory, Governor Ducey outlined measures to ensure Arizonans have access to the vaccine and hospitals can meet the staffing demands of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.
The Governor was joined by Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) Director Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs Director Major General Michael T. McGuire, Arizona Restaurant Association President and CEO Steve Chucri, and Town of Sahuarita Mayor Tom Murphy.
- Update on vaccine distribution plan
- Executive Order ensuring all Arizonans receive the vaccine without financial barriers
- Executive Order easing regulations on outdoor dining
- $1.2 million more to support Arizona restaurants
- Executive Order enhancing health and safety requirements for large public events approved by local cities, towns and counties
- $60 million more to support hospital staffing
“With COVID-19 cases rising in Arizona and across the nation, we must remain vigilant,” said Governor Ducey. “Many Arizonans and businesses have acted responsibly for many months to fight the spread of the virus, and we can’t ease up now. Today’s efforts will ensure getting the vaccine is free of charge for all Arizonans, help restaurants offer more outdoor seating, further crack down on large events, support our health care heroes and more. My thanks to partners across the state and at the federal level for the continued work to protect Arizonans and support frontline workers.”
Arizona is expected to receive an initial shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses in mid to late December, with more doses available in the weeks following. Once received, the state will promptly begin distribution. The distribution plan prioritizes health care workers, residents of long term care facilities, educators and vulnerable populations. ADHS Director Dr. Christ will provide updated details of the vaccination plan at a later date.
Additionally, the Governor today issued an Executive Order ensuring all Arizonans receive the vaccine without any financial barriers. The Governor’s Office has worked closely with insurers to ensure cost-sharing requirements, such as co-pays and co-insurance, for the vaccine are waived.
Support For Restaurants
The Governor today issued an Executive Order easing red tape on outdoor dining, increasing opportunities for safer dining experiences. The order makes it easier for restaurants to expand outdoor dining spaces.
Previously, restaurants could not temporarily extend their premises and they were limited to the amount of space for which they could extend their premises. The existing barriers result in longer wait times and a more onerous process with the local governing body. This order provides temporary extensions after approval from the local governing body.
The Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) is providing $100,000 to the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association (AzLTA) to expand its AZSAFE+CLEAN Certification program, helping restaurants and hotels strengthen sanitation and mitigation practices to further protect patrons and staff. With the funding, AzLTA will:
- Make public health and sanitation experts available to hotels and resorts;
- Develop a webinar in consultation with the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) and Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) related to the AZSAFE+CLEAN Certification program, providing an overview of the program and marketing offerings in relation to the program; and
- Develop a statewide outreach campaign to encourage participation and make hotels and resorts aware of the cooperative membership grants available.
“The AzLTA AZSAFE+CLEAN Certification program is an innovative way to show guests and prospective travelers the hard work being done to keep our properties clean and safe for staff and guests,” said AzLTA President and CEO Kim Sabow. “We want our guests to have peace of mind when they visit our hotels and resorts and know that our properties are going above and beyond to provide a healthy, safe and high-quality experience. We thank Governor Ducey and the Arizona Office of Tourism for the resources to expand this program to further strengthen sanitation practices throughout the state and help build consumer confidence.”
Arizona is also providing an initial investment of $1 million to help restaurants and other dining establishments expand outdoor dining options, further protecting patrons and staff and making more space for customers. The funding will support the launch of the Safest Outside Restaurant Assistance Program, funding up to $10,000 per restaurant for items they need to extend their outdoor dining premise, including outdoor furniture, barriers, patio heaters, patio covers, and more.
Funding will be distributed on a first come, first served basis for eligible businesses that have been approved for an extension of premises. To be eligible, applicants must comply with all COVID-19 related Executive Orders; demonstrate a new extension of premises that has been approved by the local governing body and the Arizona Department of Liquor, if applicable; plan to extend the premises for a minimum of three months; must have fewer than 50 employees; must be Arizona owned and operated, and more. Additional requirements will be listed on the application. The application will open on Monday, December 7 and will be available HERE.
The funding for the Safest Outside Restaurant Assistance Program comes from the Crisis Contingency and Safety Net Fund, a bipartisan budget agreement signed by Governor Ducey that added $50 million for Arizona’s COVID-19 response.
Additionally, AOT is providing $100,000 to help restaurants and other dining establishments safely and effectively expand outdoor dining options for patrons. With the funding, the Arizona Restaurant Association (ARA) will provide direct consultation to any Arizona dining establishment interested in expanding its premises to increase physical distancing and maximize seating capacity amid the pandemic.
ARA will assist in navigating the local and state permitting process, and provide application review prior to restaurants submitting to local and state officials. Additionally, ARA will expand public health campaigns that inform Arizona restaurants of current public health best practices.
“Just like every other business, Arizona’s restaurants are working hard to navigate the pandemic and protect employees and customers,” said ARA President and CEO Steve Chucri. “The Arizona Restaurant Association continues to work with public health officials to make adjustments as needed, including moving many operations outdoors and strengthening sanitation measures. My thanks to Governor Ducey for the continued work to support restaurants across the state and their employees and customers.”
Mitigation Requirements For Events
Governor Ducey also issued an Executive Order enhancing health and safety requirements for large public events approved by local cities, towns and counties.
Under Executive Order 2020-43 issued in June, organized public events with more than 50 attendees are prohibited in Arizona, with the option for local jurisdictions to selectively approve events of greater than 50 people only if they implemented enhanced mitigation measures.
Beginning today, organized public events of more than 50 people may only be approved by local cities, towns and counties if they have determined that safety precautions consistent with guidance issued by both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ADHS are in place, and the event organizer has committed to implementing and enforcing these precautions.
If an event is approved by a local city, town or county, the local jurisdiction must publicly post the mitigation measures that the event organizer is required to implement and enforce on their website and submit a copy to ADHS. In addition, the jurisdiction must dedicate resources to enforcing mitigation measures that the organizer has agreed to implement during the event and any public health requirements currently applicable in the jurisdiction.
As was the case before, a local city, town or county may deny a request for an organized event due to public health concerns related to COVID-19.
Additional Dollars For Hospitals
The Governor is directing an additional $60 million to provide more staffing at Arizona hospitals. With the funding, ADHS is working to secure an additional 500 nurses through the end of the month, with additional staffing to last throughout January. The staffing boost will provide critical nursing resources to hospitals statewide amid the surge of COVID-19 patients.
Today’s funding for staffing comes from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) as part of the federal CARES Act. It comes in addition to the $25 million from CRF announced last month to help hospitals address staffing needs and support current staff.
View a list of today’s actions HERE.