PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- Gov. Doug Ducey announced that Arizona gyms and pools will be allowed to reopen Wednesday, May 13, around 2 months after the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close. He also announced major league sports can resume, without fans, on May 15.
In a Tuesday afternoon news conference, the governor said that those centers can open with precautions in place, including rules about the number of visitors allowed inside and social distancing.
This is the latest announcement to come as state leaders have worked to reopen Arizona gradually, while still keeping health and public safety as first priority. Ducey says that Arizona has met a key White House benchmark for loosening restrictions — a 14-day downward trajectory in new cases or positive test rates. "We're a long way from where we were on March 11," he said.
The phased-in re-opening of Arizona's economy started on Friday, May 1, when Ducey announced elective surgeries could resume.
Next, on May 4, retailers were allowed to begin opening their doors with strict occupancy and social distancing rules in place.
Then, on May 8, hairdressers and barbers were also allowed to open with new social distancing procedures in place.
On Friday, May 8, barber shops and hair salons can reopen with modifications, and restaurants can reopen their dining areas on May 11.
Finally, restaurants were able to resume offering dine-in service on May 11, also with occupancy and social distancing limits. "I know many friends who took someone out for a Monday Mother's Day dinner," he said. He thanked restaurants for their leadership in following CDC safety guidelines. "Arizona is headed in the right direction," Ducey affirmed.
Governor Doug Ducey's plan to reopen Arizona, took a big step forward Monday, with restaurants given the green light to open their dining rooms up again.
Now, the Gov. has given the green light to gyms, fitness centers and pools can open their doors once again on May 13.
He urges caution and to keep maintaining safety protocols. "This is not a green light to speed; this is a green light to proceed," he said.
Scott Carpenter who owns Underground Fitness closed his gym at the end of March. He said he was shocked by the announcement and thought gyms would be shut down for another month.
"I was thinking it would be a little bit later, completely taken off by surprise by this although we're also ready for it at the same time," said Carpenter.
He has four locations said he's prepared to reopen.
"We've been keeping it clean throughout this entire process," said Carpenter. "We're ready to go. We've got spray bottles everywhere with alcohol and we're ready to go."
Reaction from major sports teams
As far as major league sports teams resuming games, most of the Phoenix-based teams are waiting for the go-ahead from their perspective leagues. The National Basketball Association said earlier it would allow limited, individual workouts in cities that didn't face government restrictions in early May. But the Phoenix Suns didn't say if they would start workouts again following Ducey's announcement.
"It’s a step … but until the NBA determines if/when the current season will continue and makes an official announcement about how that will move forward, we are prohibited from commenting on that publicly, at this point," said a Suns spokesperson.
For Major League Baseball, spring training was cut short in March because of the coronavirus. But recently there has been talk of starting the season around the Fourth of July in ballparks without fans.
"I was pleased to hear the governor's comments on the state's willingness to allow sporting events in a controlled environment. We have been in constant communication and he has consistently shown cooperation and support to us and league leadership," said Arizona Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall. "Both he and I have made it clear we are more than willing to be part of a solution if there is a need for us to host more teams or games."
The Arizona Coyotes were in the hunt for a playoff spot when the coronavirus postponed their season. Two weeks ago, the franchise told the NHL it would be prepared to serve as a hub for a group of teams to finish the season in Arizona. But they didn't have much to say about the Ducey announcement on Tuesday.
"We are aware of governor Ducey's announcement and will await the direction from the NHL," the team said.
The Arizona Cardinals have a similar mentality.
"We would still need the NFL to green light the return to team facilities and resume activities," said the team's vice president of communication Mark Dalton.
The Phoenix Rising FC also released a statement:
Not everyone has agreed with Ducey's plan to gradually reopen the state. Several business owners have signed a letter on TooSoonArizona.com stating that they will not be opening their doors until there's more medical evidence COVID-19 has been contained.
Several other announcements came out of Tuesday's news conferece. Dr. Cara Christ, Dr. Cara Christ, the director of AZDHS, said that the state health department will increase testing for Arizona Department of Corrections of inmates and officers.
She also said there will be a plan to test all patients and staff at assisted living facilities over the next couple of weeks.
"The objective is that we return stronger, as a state," said Ducey.
The “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” order expires this Friday.
Click HERE for the latest Arizona coronavirus updates.