PHOENIX — Businesses across Arizona are fighting for air as the coronavirus tightens its grip on the local economy.
"It was the hardest entrepreneurial day in my entire life," said Robb Corwin, CEO of Pride Group in Arizona.
Corwin's company, a provider of on-the ground services for Arizona Cardinals games and other major events in the Valley, had to lay off more than 350 employees when the events business vanished.
"I have never had that much pain and agony ... impacting that many people, that many families and having it being totally out of my control, which is frustrating," Corwin said.
On Thursday, President Trump unveiled a blueprint for governors to reopen their states in three separate phases. Phase one still requires strict social distancing with no gatherings of more than 10 people.
But before that, states need to see a decrease in coronavirus-like symptoms and positive tests. Hospitals need to treat patients without crisis-care and a testing program including antibody testing needs to be in place for healthcare workers.
In Maricopa County, public health officials say hospitalizations have flattened since the beginning of April, but the state continues to see increases in both positive cases and deaths. Currently, there are 4,507 positive cases in Arizona with 169 deaths.
Those numbers rising daily and the risk to the community widespread.
"Even considering what the guidelines are from the White House, we need more robust testing," said Will Humble, Executive Director of Arizona Public Health Association.
According to the state, 49,230 people have been tested – whereas states similar in size, like Washington and Massachusetts, have tested more than 120,000 people.
As of now, it is unclear if the state can meet the White House requirements to enter Phase One by May 1. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego released this statement regarding a possible opening:
"The pull to reopen our economy in a post-COVID world is understandably strong. I, too, want to help our business community and return to some semblance of normalcy. However, any restart needs to be led by the advice of medical professionals. Restarting the economy too soon is perhaps more disastrous than waiting—it is not a switch to be turned on and off. Yesterday, the White House released guidelines for reopening the economy, including gateway criteria laying out a tiered approach. I support these criteria and believe they should be followed in Arizona.
In particular, I support the specific scientific metrics attached to each tier. Including:
- A downward trend of cases with influenza and COVID symptoms based on strong public health surveillance.
- A downward trend of documented COVID cases within a 14-day period based on strong testing programs.
- Adequate hospital capacity with robust COVID testing programs in place for healthcare workers.
The White House also laid out robust public health system responsibilities needed to meet this phased opening criteria including, but not limited to, widespread testing and greater testing resources for vulnerable groups; contact-tracing for individuals possibly exposed to COVID; and a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Currently, Arizona is not meeting the criteria to proceed with a May 1 reopening. In order for us to meet these metrics we need more widespread testing, including asymptomatic individuals, and a more robust contact-tracing program. Every day that our economy must stay closed to protect public health is another blow to our business community. As we work to meet reopening metrics businesses will require continued and expanded assistance."