Doug Ducey not ready to further relax social distance

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ give an update on the COVID-19 pandemic response Tuesday, April 14, 2020 during a news conference at the Arizona Commerce Authority in Phoenix. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)

Doug Ducey said Wednesday people in Arizona are acting responsibly since he loosened restrictions on businesses, but he’s not ready yet to open new sectors of the economy.

Ducey said he has an “aspirational” goal for schools to reopen on schedule in August, and he’s hopeful summer camps and youth activities will be open soon.

Schools have been closed since March, when Ducey and schools chief Kathy Hoffman shut them due to staffing concerns stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. Hoffman has formed a task force of education leaders to write plans for the safe reopening of schools.

“We are aspirational for what’s possible, and we are thinking ahead for what’s next,” Ducey said in a news conference.

The Republican governor said he sees “zero evidence” that Arizona will have a surge in coronavirus infections as social distancing measures relax. But he suggested he’s willing to re-impose restrictions if necessary.

“I am going to use every tool that’s available to a governor to do what’s in the best interest of Arizona,” Ducey said.

In other coronavirus developments:

— Arizona paid more than $500 million in jobless benefit payments last week as the Department of Economic Security caught up with weeks of overdue benefits for thousands of applicants who are unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

— Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is implementing a mandatory face mask policy starting June 1 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

— The University of Arizona has recruited former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, a longtime faculty member, to help oversee its reopening plans. Carmona joined university President Robert Robbins at a news conference Wednesday in Tucson. Both men said the school is aiming to reopen this fall in a hybrid fashion of both in-person and online instruction. The school also wants to reopen dorms but with multiple changes. These will likely include masks being available, enforcement of proper social distancing and no more than two students assigned to a room.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.