Glendale chamber president: Arizona governor, mayors need to restrict business operations to prevent spread of coronavirus
The president of a local chamber of commerce in Arizona is calling for Gov. Doug Ducey to restrict business operations to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
If Ducey won't step up, then mayors should, according to Robert Heidt, president and CEO of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce.
Heidt spoke passionately about his frustration about Ducey's failure to act in a video the chamber posted on YouTube on Wednesday afternoon.
Heidt told The Arizona Republic he knows local businesses are struggling, and he understands what statewide restrictions would mean for them. But he also said he has spoken with health care and hospital leaders in the state who have told him how serious the COVID-19 outbreak is, and how much more serious it will be if there aren't statewide restrictions in place.
"As a chamber, it is unprecedented for me to say this," he said in the video. "I don’t want businesses to shut down. I want businesses to thrive. We want a strong local economy. But when our healthcare system is not fully able to deal with this influx that can come our way and will come our way, we have a problem.”
Heidt said he would support actions that restrict large groups from gathering, and limit restaurants to take-out and delivery only.
Heidt isn't the only one calling on Ducey to act. The governor has received criticism from federal and local leaders alike for not taking the same precautions as other states, such as shutting down bars and restricting the operations of restaurants.
U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has called on Ducey to close clubs, bars, museums, libraries, gyms and other places where large groups congregate. Restaurants, she said, should move to pickup and delivery orders only.
So far, Phoenix is the only large city in the Valley to place restrictions on business operations. The city forced the closure of bars and restricted restaurants to takeout, delivery and drive-thru only as of Tuesday. Tucson and Flagstaff have made similar moves.
Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers issued an emergency declaration on Wednesday night that recommends that businesses follow social distancing guidelines, such as restricting dine-in services, but does not mandate them to follow the rules.
Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday said he supports guidance across the state, but not a mandate.
Ducey said he does not plan to issue a statewide order to shut down businesses but supports cities' decision to do so.
“We want to make decisions that protect public health first and foremost, but also take into account that we have a large state," he said. "Things are different in Tombstone than they are in Tucson. They are different in Gilbert than they are in Globe. I am going to respect local leaders’ decisions.”
Ducey also said that it is possible for some restaurants and other businesses to remain open but take steps such as closing down every other table to keep patrons at a safe distance.
Heidt said he has watched as West Valley cities have grappled with how and whether to act, looking at one another for direction but not being willing to lead themselves.
"That tells me we are broken," he said.
In Glendale on Tuesday, the City Council discussed the option of mandabusiness restrictions. Councilmembers appeared split on the issue. City officials said they were watching what other cities did.
Council members discussed the harm it would cause small businesses and the economy, and potential government overreach.
“I’m someone who doesn’t want government to get out of its lane,” Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff said. But, she added, you can’t follow the president’s recommendations and still have restaurants open.
Statewide restrictions would make it easier for businesses to understand how to move forward, Heidt said.
"That goes back to the question of where is the leadership from our governor?" Heidt said.
But if the governor won't act, he said, mayors must.
"If our governor won’t do the job then you need to do it," he told mayors in his video. "You need to step up and declare states of emergency and start to shut things down in a pragmatic way."
Heidt started the video by talking about how asking businesses to shut down is, for chambers, like "stabbing us in the heart." He said he applauded businesses for trying to keep their doors open, and he knows that some of the chamber's members won't agree with his opinion.
But if the state doesn't do something now, he said, "the economic impact will be far greater" later.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or at 602-444-8763. Follow her on Twitter @JenAFifield.
Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.