Warnings from police and Arizona health officials didn’t stop Debbie Thompson from serving food Friday inside her small-town Horseshoe Cafe.
“They have just told me that I have to shut down. I am not. They will have to arrest me,” Thompson declared to the cheers and applause from several seated customers.
Though she was not arrested, Thompson later received a call from the state Department of Health Services telling her to stop violating Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order that’s designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Thompson and other business owners in Wickenburg, a town of 6,300 people about 65 miles (105 kilometers) west of Phoenix, decided to reopen in defiance of Ducey’s order. Those who disregard it could face fines, though it wasn’t immediately clear if any businesses were cited.
Thompson, 65, said her restaurant can’t survive on only carry-out orders until the restrictions expire in two weeks. The Horseshoe Cafe normally makes $700 to $900 a day. In the last six weeks, it has been lucky to make $100 a day, she said.
“I’m a widow trying to do my best here,” Thompson said as she served about eight customers. “I believe our governor needs to get out and stay in the rural areas like we are. He needs to walk these streets and see the devastation it’s caused on these businesses.”
Ducey has extended his stay-at-home order, which applies to dine-in restaurants, through May 15 but said he will allow retailers big and small to reopen with precautions.
State officials published guidance Friday for retailers that reopen, including maintaining social distancing, limiting the number of people allowed in stores and widespread cleaning. They still recommend delivery or curbside options — even if customers are allowed inside — closing fitting rooms at clothing stores, screening employees for symptoms and offering face masks to workers and customers.
At Trader J’s, a Southwest-themed gift shop in Wickenburg, JoAnn Zimpher had masks and hand sanitizer ready for customers but wasn’t following all the state’s guidelines. Her son owns the shop, which was allowed to reopen, unlike Thompson’s restaurant.
Zimpher said if businesses disregard Ducey’s order, that doesn’t mean their owners have a disregard for life.
“We’ve never asked the people that want to stay isolated to come out,” she said. “The people we have encountered are thanking us for opening. They said, ‘It’s really good you take a stand.'”
The Republican governor let retailers open because he said there are signs the spread of the virus has slowed in Arizona. However, there’s no clear indication that deaths and new cases are trending down.
The state on Friday reported an additional 10 deaths and 314 confirmed infections, for a total of 330 deaths and nearly 8,000 cases.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. It can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death, for some people, especially older adults and those with existing health issues.
Meanwhile, a death row inmate became the third in the state prison system to die from COVID-19. A federal public defender whose office represented Alfonso Raymond Salazar says he died at a hospital Thursday of virus-related complications.
Salazar was sentenced to death in the 1986 killing of 83-year-old Sara Kaplan in Pima County. Federal public defender Dale Baich said seven other death row prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19. ___
Terry Tang reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writer Jonathan J. Cooper contributed to this report.