March 27, 2020 / Modified mar 27, 2020 7:33 p.m.

Mayor Romero orders 'nonessential' businesses to close

The mayor ordered the Saturday-morning closure of businesses not deemed "essential" in an earlier order from the governor, advising others to follow suit.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero released a proclamation Friday ordering the closure of any businesses that didn't make the list of those deemed "essential" in an order earlier in the week from Gov. Doug Ducey, as the impacts of the spread of COVID-19 loomed over the city.

The proclamation, which Romero called “painful,” ordered nonessential businesses to stay closed starting 8 a.m. Saturday, March 28 through April 17. The release also strongly advised businesses like hair and nail salons to close, even though they made Ducey's list of "essential services."

The mayor told reporters Friday night that many of the business defined as essential by the governor are not “critical or essential” and she wants them to close because they involve “human interactions that conflict with social distancing requirements and CDC guidance.”

Romero said she called the governor’s office and advised him that she was issuing the order since he has not issued a stay-at-home order.

“I prefer to be abundantly careful to help prevent the spread of this virus. I do not want to see us in a position where our hospitals are overwhelmed for us to make these types of calls,” Romero explained.

Ducey is under increasing pressure to issue a statewide stay-at-home order as the state prepares for COVID-19 illnesses and hospitalizations to rise in the coming weeks, while experts say limited testing continues to misrepresent the true extent of the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The mayor’s proclamation is backed up by the force of law. Businesses found in violation of it could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. City Attorney Mike Rankin said Tucson Police officers will begin by educating business owners before writing citations.

He said he understands determining which businesses are considered essential and nonessential is difficult.

“There will certainly be some categories of retail that are not essential, reading through the governor’s executive order, if you are a shoe store, I don’t think you are essential,” Rankin said.

“I don’t see anything that defines general retail as essential, unless they are providing certain types of merchandise for essential functions. So, I believe that Dillard’s and similar stores are nonessential and need to close.”

Mayor Romero said she chose to extend store closures in Tucson through April 17 because she is concerned people will remember President Trump’s statement that he would like to see things reopen by Easter (April 12), and she says medical professionals have advised otherwise since numbers are still rising.

Read the mayor's proclamation here.

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