What Does Arizona Gov. Ducey's Stay-Home Order Mean For Residents, Businesses?

By Ben Giles, Steve Goldstein, Mark Brodie
Published: Wednesday, April 1, 2020 - 8:31pm
Updated: Thursday, April 2, 2020 - 1:52pm

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social distancing freeway sign
Christina Estes/KJZZ
A sign on Interstate 17 in Phoenix on March 31, 2020.

If you’ve got questions about what Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy and Stay Connected" order means for your daily life, rest assured, you’re not alone.

Since the order took effect at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, there’s been varying takes on its impact.

Take some Republican lawmakers, who’ve said nothing has changed — and that that’s a good thing.

Some Democratic critics agree that Ducey’s order brought no change. But they say that’s a bad thing, because it didn’t go far enough.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Backed by Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on March 30, 2020, explains his stay-at-home order as well as their joint decision to keep schools shut through the end of the academic year.

What Exactly Does The Order Say?

“No person can leave their home, except to engage in essential activities or central governmental functions or essential functions,” said Josh Bendor, an attorney with Osborn Maledon.

The issue then centers on the meaning of essential. Ducey’s Monday order defines “essential activities.”

“That includes things like going out to get groceries for your family and you know, going to get medical care, caring for a family and friends, outdoor exercise, but also engaging in essential functions,” Bendor said.

It’s that list of essential functions, which basically details which businesses can and can’t remain open, that has caused confusion. Ducey issued that order a week ago.

Tom Ryan, an attorney who served on former Gov. Janet Napolitano’s Access to Emergency Services Task Force in 2006, said the governor’s list is silly.

“And it gets kind of not just silly but scary,” he said. “For example, hair and nail salon shops are considered essential. For the poor employees of those salons that cannot distance themselves from 6  feet away, I don't know how you do a hairdo from 6 feet away, and I don't know how you trim and polish nails from 6 feet away.”

As for businesses that aren’t included on the list, Bendor said Ducey’s orders are cut and dry. Clothing retailers, for example, surely need to stay closed.

“It will be a big change for some businesses. For some people, it may not be a big change,” Bendor said. “For example, I have been working from home, and only going out basically to get groceries and a couple other things. So it's not going to change a lot.”

That’s because the order says non-essential businesses don’t necessarily have to close if they can operate remotely or if their business doesn't require in person, on site transactions and interactions. Even essential businesses that stay open must abide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's social distancing guidelines, as well as federal and state sanitation measures. 

For those that still refuse to change, the governor has so far avoided heavy-handed law enforcement.

Tom Belshe, executive director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said the governor has so far asked local officials to simply report noncompliance and to educate businesses. Belshe said he’s not sure if that will change with the new executive order in effect.

Mark Brnovich
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Mark Brnovich

Bendor said there are now potential penalties for disobedience, but there’s a catch.

“One thing it says is that, so it's a misdemeanor to violate the order, but before any enforcement action being taken, you have to tell the person that what they're doing is contrary to order and give them an opportunity to comply,” Bendor.

If someone doesn’t comply, the attorney general issued an opinion on Tuesday that says local law enforcement have the authority to enforce the order. But even then, Ryan said the order doesn’t require you to provide evidence that the reason you left your house is essential.

“This is a fairly toothless order,” Ryan said. “And there really isn't any enforcement mechanism for it.”

That’s something that Attorney General Mark Brnovich told KJZZ’s The Show that Ducey will need to address.

“It's kind of up to the governor to really set forth whether his order is the ceiling or whether it's the floor,” Brnovich said.

Will Humble, the former head of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said disagreements about the merits and meaning of Ducey’s order miss the point.

Rather than issue harshly limiting orders, Humble said Ducey’s goal has been to push people in the right direction.

Will Humble
Bret Jaspers/KJZZ
Will Humble

“To me, it's about, you know, just making it possible, just motivating people to do the right thing and helping them to do the right thing, because most people want to do the right thing,” he said. “And if most people do the right thing, and follow the guidelines, we're going to save lives — not every single life, but we'll be doing the best that we can as a community and as a state.”

As for why some say Ducey’s order didn’t go further, Humble said the governor’s also had to consider that there’s more to public health than the coronavirus. Changes in behavior, both by individuals and businesses, can also have public health consequences.

With that in mind, Humble encouraged everyone fretting over the order to take a step back.

“What really matters is do everything that you can, you know, because we're all in it together,” Humble said. “So instead of splitting hairs on what it says or doesn't say, just please do it.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the formal name of Gov. Ducey's stay-home order and to clarify social distancing rules for businesses that will remain open.

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