PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday that he would not extend the state's stay-at-home order.
The stay-at-home order, formally called "Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected," will expire on Friday. It was already extended from its initial expiration date of April 30.
In its place, Ducey announced a "Stay Healthy, Return Smarter, Return Stronger" executive order.
"This does not mean a return to normal," Ducey emphasized.
Ducey says the state has met the CDC's Phase One guidelines for reopening and will allow more businesses to resume operations with social distancing measures.
Part of the changes includes allowing gyms and public pools to reopen on May 13, and major league sports will be allowed to be hosted in Arizona on May 15, but without fans and with leagues following CDC guidelines.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases and coronavirus-related deaths in Arizona are continuing to rise.
As of Tuesday, there were 11,736 confirmed cases and 562 coronavirus-related deaths reported to state health officials.
That was up from 11,380 confirmed cases and 542 deaths on Monday.
One week ago, there were 9,305 cases across the state with 395 deaths.
Despite the state's stay-at-home order was initially extended to May 15, a number of businesses were given the green light to open up prior to Friday.
Ducey previously announced that retail stores, barbershops and salons can reopen and elective surgeries were allowed to resume as well.
The stay-at-home order was meant to “flatten the curve,” meaning it would minimize the chance of a large influx of patients that would overwhelm the state’s hospital network and lead to more deaths from lack of available treatment.
Since the order was enacted in March, Ducey claims Arizona has massively increased its hospital bed and ICU capacity.
But, crucially, health experts have said adequate COVID-19 testing is necessary to understand whether the outbreak is slowing down.
"We have to get to the point where we have enough reliable tests for anyone who wants one can get one,” Dr. Kevin Stephan, an infectious disease specialist, previously said to 12 News.
Arizona State University released a study last month about the impact of reopening the state too soon during the ongoing pandemic.
The sobering takeaway from the study is the potential for thousands to die by the end of July if social distancing or "mitigation" changes too soon.
Officials have also launched the “Arizona Testing Blitz," which aims to test 10,000 to 20,000 Arizonans for COVID-19 every Saturday for three consecutive weeks in May.
As for individual Arizonans, Ducey has not changed safety guidelines and has asked people to continue social distancing and practice good hygiene during the ongoing outbreak.
"This idea of physical distancing is not going away," Ducey said. "It’s going to continue to be a focus."
Read Gov. Doug Ducey's full executive order below: