AZDHS: no plans to close businesses as several counties hit substantial spread. Businesses prepping for worst

Updated: Dec. 10, 2020 at 6:35 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - No plateau in sight— that’s what county officials say they’re seeing with COVID-19 numbers, as Pima County is likely heading into the red in all benchmarks used to measure the spread of the virus.

Canning beers at Button Brew House, has just about become second nature. This business, just only three years old, had to quickly adjust when indoor dining was closed down during the spring. Cans became one of their main sources of income, while they said wholesale sales dropped by 90 percent.

“January, February- we started looking at getting a second location,” said Erika Button, co-owner Button Brew House.

Instead of getting a new location, she said they saw the writing on the wall in March and prepared for closures. They focused on pick up, take-out and ordered a canning line— something to prepare them for any other possible closures or hard times, in addition to the other mitigation steps they’ve taken. While they hope there is not another closure, they said it’s something they’ve been prepared to do all year and are more equipped for now.

“If there’s another (mandate) where they close the taproom, we are fully stocked with cans, and able to put them right out the door,” said Button.

Looking at the state dashboard for business, three counties are already in substantial spread- Apache, Navajo and Yavapai.

According to AZDHS benchmarks set out in August, that means bars, restaurants, indoor gyms, water parks— should all be closed. However, the state said they do not have plans to close businesses outlined in the executive order, and currently only recommends businesses move activities like dining and gym classes outdoors.

In a statement, an AZDHS spokesperson says, “Most businesses have done an excellent job of following the mitigation requirements, and there are no plans at this time to shut down businesses covered by the executive order. We continue to urge Arizonans to focus on taking precautions at small private gatherings. Too often, people who follow mitigation requirements at businesses and elsewhere are letting down their guard when they are around people they know and trust, such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. AZDHS is on high alert and in frequent communication with local health departments. Mitigation steps remain in place for businesses covered by executive order requirements, including the caps on occupancy, face masks required for customers and staff, and steps to keep patrons from congregating.”

The state did just announce a two strikes policy, meaning a business unable or unwilling to make changes to come into compliance will receive a Closure Notice.

After having to close their taproom in the spring, Button still fears it could happen again, and what that would mean for local businesses.

“Terrified. Absolutely terrified. We got through it the first time and mentally we’re kind of prepared the second time,” she said.

Pima County is above substantial spread in two of the three categories for a while— cases per 100,000 and positivity percentage. Now, for the first time since the previous peak, the county climbed above 10 percent for COVID-like illness seen at hospitals. If the county stays there, or above in all three categories next week, it will officially be in the substantial spread category.

A spokesperson for Pima County said based on the day-to-day numbers they are seeing, they expect to see the county in substantial spread next week, “with no plateau in sight.” What that means for businesses, they couldn’t speak to, since they take their direction from the state. Button is preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.

“We’re saving all our pennies in our savings just in case,” she said.

Button Brew House has applied for funds recently announced by the governor to expand and improve their outdoor patio.

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