COVID-19 in Arizona: Some restaurants close again, masks in public remain optional despite rise in cases

PHOENIX – Since the reopening of Arizona last month, several businesses have closed their doors once again, citing exposure to COVID-19 among employees.

On Saturday, ABC 15 news reported that in the previous seven days, popular Phoenix area restaurants have announced closures, including Chelsea’s Kitchen, the Porch, Hash Kitchen, SanTan Brewing, Spirit House, Floridino’s Pizza and Pasta, the Shop Beer Co. and PHX Beer Co.

Many restaurants posted to social media in an attempt to alleviate the public’s concerns. Hash Kitchen announced on Facebook its Arcadia location would remain closed until all employees are tested for COVID-19 and a disinfection service had thoroughly cleaned their workspace.

According to the Associated Press, Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, director of disease control for Maricopa County, said there is a mounting body of evidence that a “well-fitted cloth face mask” can prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

In a news conference Thursday, Gov. Doug Ducey said he will not require wearing masks in public, even though cases in the state at the time had risen to nearly 36,000 and the death toll exceeded 1,150.

At the news conference, Ducey attributed Arizona’s rise in the number of cases to better testing availability. For the past six days, the number of new cases reported each day has exceeded 1,000 – reaching 1,654 on June 12.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that Ducey rarely has been seen wearing a mask in public, and in last week’s press conference he dismissed concerns that the increase in virus cases may overwhelm hospitals.

As of Monday, June 15, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported a total of 36,705 cases of COVID-19 and 1,194 deaths in the state. It said 479,102 tests for COVID-19 have been completed as of June 15 in public and private labs in Arizona, and 7% of tests have come back positive for the virus.

Upholstery company makes masks for kids

To help curb the spread of COVID-19, a Phoenix company that previously made movie theater chairs has pivoted to crafting masks for children returning to school. Nathaniel Allen, manager of American Upholstery, told AZ Family that Valley school districts reached out to ask if they could make masks for kids, and the company took on the challenge. Eight employees are assembling and sewing more than 10,000 masks by hand.

American Red Cross tests for COVID-19 antibodies

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized use of an antibody test for the Red Cross to test all blood donations, according to a press release. While noting that positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity, officials at Red Cross said blood donations are needed because of increased hospital demand in recent weeks.

Treasury Department allocates additional funds to Indian Country

On Friday, Treasury officials said they will transfer the remaining $2.2 billion of the $8 billion reserved for Native Americans as part of the CARES Act for coronavirus relief. Officials said the funding prioritizes employment and tribal businesses, noting that payroll support, social distancing guidelines and sanitization procedures are all key factors for businesses.

Phoenix Zoo reopens Monday

The Phoenix Zoo opens to the general public Monday with social distancing rules, heightened cleaning protocols and numerous hand-sanitizing stations. About 2,000 members attended the privately owned zoo’s Welcome Back weekend.

How to help

12News is teaming up with Fry’s Food and Drug and United Food Bank to provide meals to families this summer. Now through Labor Day, every $1 donated at Fry’s provides five meals to families in need.

Next Gen Reporter, Phoenix

Deagan Urbatsch is an Arizona native who expects to graduate in August 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in business studies. He covered business for Cronkite News in 2019.