Arizona faces new closures as hospitals prep for virus surge

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Bottled Blonde, one of the many restaurant bars closed for the next 30 days due to the surge in coronavirus cases, is padlocked shut Tuesday, June 30, 2020, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX – Arizona hospitals are hiring out-of-state nurses, squeezing in more beds and preparing for the possibility of making life-and-death decisions about how to ration care as they get ready for an expected surge of coronavirus patients in one of the nation's worst hot spots.

Parents, teachers, businesses and their customers also are hunkering down for at least a month of new closures imposed by the state in a belated effort to slow the spread of the virus and limit overcrowding at hospitals.

Arizona and several other states that were reopening their economies have clamped back down over the past week as they eclipsed records for infections and hospitalizations. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, however, went further than others by ordering gyms and movie theaters to close and postponing the start of school until mid-August.

Texas shut down bars and reduced restaurant capacity, while Florida, where some beaches have been closed, banned alcohol consumption at bars. In contrast, Ducey shut down all bars for 30 days, including in Scottsdale, where employees and young customers crammed into nightclubs without wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Ducey ordered tubing businesses to close after images over the weekend showed large numbers of tubers on the Salt River without masks. While Texas limited the number of people at water parks, Arizona closed them altogether for 30 days.

Tom Hatten, founder and chief executive of Mountainside Fitness, a chain of about 20 gyms across metro Phoenix, said Tuesday that he has no plans to shut down. He has filed court paperwork seeking an injunction against Ducey's closure order, calling it arbitrary and irrational.

Hatten also said several of his health club’s facilities were cited by police Tuesday for being open.

Under Ducey's order, the citations carry a fine up to $2,500 if convicted.