Faith and Begorrah! Arizona’s Open Again! Or Is It?
March 12, 2021
By Patrick J. Paul
William Butler Yeats wrote of the Irish that they have “an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustains them through temporary periods of joy.” These past 12 months have seen too infrequent periods of joy.
However, as we reached the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have reason for optimism on a return to “normal.” Vaccines are being administered around-the-clock and across the globe and the pace of infections is slowing. Businesses that have treaded water to stay afloat over the last year are anxious for a reopening.
Here in Arizona, it is prime time for tourism. The month of March, replete with spring break, the Cactus League, plenty of golf options, the NCAA tournament and, of course, St. Patrick's Day, is a time for residents and visitors alike to enjoy the Chamber of Commerce weather and hospitality.
Of course, the pandemic has taken with it many businesses and has done substantial harm to Arizona's hospitality industry. For example, the world-renowned Arizona Biltmore has been closed for the last year, but is set to reopen on April 15. The present good weather and prior executive orders of Gov. Doug Ducey, allowing in part for an expansion of service premises for Arizona hotels, restaurants, and bars, have provided a lifeline to many hospitality businesses awaiting a return to normal and the permission to again operate at full capacity.
On Friday, March 5, 2021, many believed Arizona had captured the elusive leprechaun’s pot of gold when Gov. Ducey issued Executive Order 2021 – 05 terminating occupancy limits for Arizona businesses. At long last, not just hotels, restaurants and bars, but also gyms, and personal training facilities can again operate at full capacity. With the announcement, many anticipated full spring training facilities and a return to large outdoor celebrations like the Phoenix St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Faire PARADE, not to mention a full house at the many establishments across the state celebrating Ireland’s patron saint (or, at least celebrating something).
On further review, the luck of the Irish may not yet be in full shamrock bloom. Although the Executive Order touts Arizona’s two million inoculated citizens since December 16, 2020, and further notes that the risk previously posed by COVID-19 is decreasing, it clarifies clearly while “some restrictions are lifted, the data must continue to be monitored to determine the impacts of opening businesses.”
To cut through the blarney, the bottom line is that masking and social distancing are still required. Venues that don’t have adequate real estate or approved extension of premises simply cannot operate at full capacity while abiding the various guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Labor, and the Arizona Department of Health Services - all of which apply to Arizona businesses.
As it relates specifically to Spring Training, teams may operate upon submission and approval of a plan to a DHS or the local public health agency that demonstrates implementation of safety precautions and physical distancing. The reality here is that with three weeks left in the season there likely isn’t enough time for the teams to pivot, develop and submit new plans for approval and continue to operate. As such, those venues are not likely to allow for a substantial increase in attendance.
Nevertheless, the rescission of capacity limits represents a critical step on the road to a true full reopening. Although we might not have that leprechaun’s pot of gold, he knows we’re close. Happy Socially Distanced St. Patrick’s Day!
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