The new coronavirus officially arrived in Arizona in late January, after hitching a ride with a Maricopa County man who'd traveled to Wuhan, China.

But it wasn't until March, when officials realized the virus was spreading easily, that the state's battle against COVID-19 began in earnest.

In those early weeks, a handful of cases prompted an escalating series of preventive measures, as harder-hit states like Washington and New York showed Arizonans what awaited them barring swift action.

But compliance with restrictions — and the restrictions themselves — relaxed over time. Arizona soon found itself on a path to a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases.

In the four-plus months the state has spent grappling with the virus, the man at the helm of Arizona's COVID-19 response, Gov. Doug Ducey, has used regular briefings to inform the public of the evolving situation and to announce steps to combat the deadly pandemic.

An Arizona Republic review of nearly 20 hours of audio and video of those events, as well as countless bulletins and social media posts issued by his office, show a leader who has, time and again, been slow to adopt aggressive strategies to minimize coronavirus infections and deaths.

As the state attempts to regain control of the situation, the 17 weeks of public appearances illustrate how Arizona lost its early advantage to become one of the world's worst infection hotspots.

March 2: The first press conference

Standing shoulder to shoulder with other health and emergency officials at the state's Public Health Laboratory, Ducey and State Health Services Department director Dr. Cara Christ hold their first coronavirus-related news briefing. They assure Arizonans the risk of contracting COVID-19 is low.

Christ notes the individual with the first confirmed case of COVID-19 faced a higher-than-average risk of infection due to international travel. She acknowledges there "are now several cases of COVID-19 in the United States in people without a travel history to an affected area," however, and "the disease is spreading."

She warns residents to expect additional positives in Arizona, especially as the Public Health Lab begins in-house testing. But, she says, the state is prepared.

"Most of my leadership team, including myself, were at the Department of Health Services and held key roles during the state's 2009 H1N1 response," she says, referring to a new strain of influenza that generated widespread fear that year. "We have decades of experience."

Despite officials' pleas for Arizonans not to hoard food or supplies, families everywhere rush to stock up on essentials. World Health Organization officials begin emphasizing the lethality of COVID-19 compared to the flu, stressing that "no one has immunity" and "some will suffer severe disease."

In Seattle, officials trace an outbreak to a skilled nursing facility. New York's small number of cases begins to double each day,

March 9: 'Act like everyone has it'

One week later, Ducey and Christ update the public: The state now has six confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19.

Officials consider one infected woman the state's first example of "community spread," meaning she caught the virus without traveling to an affected area or interacting with a known case.

"Arizonans should be concerned about the possibility of getting COVID-19," Christ says. "I would say that the risk to Arizonans is heightened. ... Act like everyone has it."

In northern Italy, doctors at overwhelmed hospitals report having to choose which patients to treat "according to age and state of health, as in war situations." In Seattle, the number of deaths linked to the skilled nursing facility has increased to 19.

Ducey announces new steps to protect similarly at-risk populations in Arizona, requesting long-term-care facilities create separate dining areas for people with respiratory illnesses and screen visitors.

Still, officials do not recommend canceling large events, and sporting events continue as planned. Leaders emphasize that 80% of people infected with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms.

Two days later, the World Health Organization would classify the outbreak as a pandemic, and Ducey would declare a state of emergency.

March 12: Public school closures not recommended

Ducey's declaration allows the state to tap emergency funding, gives authorities additional powers to procure medical supplies and waives some licensing requirements for health facilities.

In southern Arizona, organizers call off the Tucson Festival of Books — which typically draws more than 100,000 attendees — for the first time in its 12-year history after more than 100 authors refuse to attend due to coronavirus risks.

Owners of rental homes see cancellations on Airbnb and other platforms, and churches discourage members from holding hands during services.

Phoenix-based Alhambra Elementary School District announces it will suspend classes indefinitely, as governors in other states implement statewide school closures.

SCHOOL DELAYED:Chandler Unified School District delays school year as COVID-19 cases soar

During a call with school leaders and health officials on March 12, Ducey and Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman say they don't recommend broadly shuttering K-12 schools. The state has nine confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19, which officials don't consider a "widespread" outbreak.

They say districts and schools can make their own decisions but worry students will lose access to vital services beyond classroom instruction.

"We are certainly aware of what is happening in other states and around us," Ducey says. "We want to make the best possible decision. But these decisions are based on the facts and information that we have."

In response, about 40 education leaders sign a letter calling a long-term closure of Arizona schools "inevitable." They ask for funding support from the Legislature, flexibility in the number of required school days and cancellation of state testing.

"A clear plan for a long-term, statewide shutdown is critical," they write.

March 15: Public schools to close for 2 weeks, for now

Arizona’s largest teacher's union calls for all students to stay home over concerns about the spread of COVID-19, one of many times calls for action will precede an announcement from the Governor's Office.

About 40 districts and schools have independently announced closures — two shutter in response to petitions from community members. Governors in more than 30 other states have closed or announced plans to close schools statewide, and 10 have banned large gatherings.

Later that afternoon, Ducey and Hoffman post a video announcing all Arizona schools will close for two weeks, saying the "safest place for children during this time is at home" and "elderly adults or those with underlying health conditions" should not care for children.

Ducey also tweets that the state — which has 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — will follow federal recommendations to cancel "large events and mass gatherings" involving 50 or more people, such as conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events and weddings.

Meanwhile, governors in states like California, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio and Washington have shut down bars and in-person dining at restaurants, and New Mexico's governor has closed state parks and museums.

On national television, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, calls for a "dramatic diminution" or personal interactions.

"When you are dealing with a virus outbreak, you are always behind where you think you are," he says.

March 16: 'If you're thinking of going out … Don't' 

The next day, Ducey, Hoffman and Christ file into the Public Health Laboratory flanked by four other officials for another public briefing. Arizona school districts are planning a shift to online classes, and physicians are clamoring for equipment to collect COVID-19 samples.

The state has confirmed 18 cases of COVID-19, but, given limited testing access, public health experts warn many others are likely infected. The director general of the World Health Organization has just said officials generally have "not seen an urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing — which is the backbone of the response."

Arizona officials announce plans to ramp up coronavirus testing by opening community testing sites and expanding testing criteria so more people qualify.

They acknowledge new federal guidelines advising against gatherings of 10 or more people urging limited service at bars and restaurants. Ducey advises Arizonans wanting to celebrate St. Patrick's Day the next day to do so at home.

"If you are thinking of going out to a crowded bar to celebrate, our advice is: Don’t," the governor says. "Social distancing, or personal distancing, is one of the greatest measures you can take to stay safe, and that's hard to do in a crowded bar."

The plea is a request, not an order. That won't come for another week.

March 17: 'I'm not in competition with any other governor'

A day later, the state has 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including the first two positive cases in Navajo County. State leaders recommend the cancellation of gatherings of 10 or more people.

At a Tucson news conference, Ducey skirts questions about not taking stronger action, urging reporters not to get ahead of themselves.

"I'm not in competition with any other governor or place in the nation," he says. "I want to make the best decisions to protect public health in the state of Arizona.”

He notes officials have worked to “avoid being alarmist” and want to “tamp down some of the very real fear that is out there.”

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., slams Ducey for moving too slowly. She urges him to shutter bars, nightclubs and gyms and limit restaurants statewide to pickup and delivery orders only, arguing that "delaying action leads to more loss of life."

March 19: Bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters to close

In two days, the number of confirmed cases in Arizona has more than doubled, from 21 to 47. Eight of the state's 15 counties report infected patients. Doctors complain that testing criteria is confusing and incomplete, and states with comparable populations appear to have tested far more people than Arizona.

The mayors of Phoenix, Tempe, Tucson, Flagstaff, Cave Creek and Tolleson have grown impatient with the governor. They issue city-level directives shutting down bars and eliminating dine-in service. 

Insisting he is "all-in" on the fight against the disease, Ducey takes his strongest action to date: Counties with confirmed cases must restrict restaurant service and close bars, theaters and gyms.

The National Guard will help grocery stores and food banks restock shelves to protect food supplies, he says, and hospitals will halt elective surgeries.

"We are determined to take all necessary precautions to address this outbreak and will continue to act with urgency to protect public health," Ducey says. 

Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says the governor's directive strikes "the right balance." But Sinema criticizes it, saying the decision to limit the restrictions on restaurants, bars, movie theaters and gyms to the counties with confirmed cases doesn't go far enough.

"It should apply to the whole state," she says. "Waiting until the cases show up is too late."

March 23: 'Not there yet' for broader shutdown

Five days later, the number of confirmed cases in Arizona has ballooned to 326, a nearly 600% increase. At least five people have died of COVID-19. Officials have extended school closures another two weeks. 

At his afternoon news briefing, Ducey appears with just two other officials, Christ and emergency management director Wendy Smith-Reeve. They stand several feet apart. The governor issues another executive order requiring hospitals to share daily statistics on staffing, ventilators, beds and personal protective equipment.

He insists Arizona is "not there yet" in terms of requiring residents to stay home but issues an executive order to define "essential" businesses — those that would remain open if he further limits Arizonans' movement — just in case.

City leaders immediately slam a section of the order precluding them from closing businesses Ducey has deemed essential. They also criticize the inclusion of golf courses, gun stores and "personal hygiene services."

Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans orders the closure of all nail salons, hair salons, beauty salons and similar businesses in apparent defiance of the governor's order. 

On March 27, Ducey brushes off criticism he is acting too slowly, saying on the radio that "what's going on in Arizona is dramatically different than what's going on in New York and New Jersey." By this point, New York has 20,875 confirmed cases and 157 known deaths.

"We're in a position where we can prepare and we can plan," Ducey says.

The next day, the public learns emergency director Smith-Reeve has resigned over frustrations with Ducey's management of the state's COVID-19 response.

March 30: Statewide shutdown

Doctors and elected officials continue to press Ducey to take more drastic containment measures.

"We don’t need to imagine what the consequences of inaction will be," Democratic Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, a state representative from Yuma, writes in a letter to the governor.

By March 30, more than half the country has stay-at-home orders in place. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arizona have more than tripled over the previous week, from 326 to 1,157. Known deaths have quadrupled, from five to 20.

At least nine mayors also have written Ducey, telling him the "ever-increasing numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths serve as a stark indicator of what is to come if we do not take action now."

After more than 15 minutes of lead-up at an afternoon news conference, Ducey announces what many anticipate: a statewide stay-at-home order preventing Arizonans from leaving their residences except for food, medicine and other "essential activities."  The order will remain in effect through at least April 30 and is intended to give hospitals time to increase capacity.

"Already, things have shut down to a large degree," the governor says. "They're going to shut down even further." 

As at previous briefings, he does not wear a mask.

April 3: In reversal, salons must close 

Backlash against the governor from the salon industry, defined as an essential service, intensifies. Cosmetology professionals contend there's no way to socially distance while doing hair or nails. 

"There's not one person in the world that deserves to die because someone got their hair done," says D'Lisa Shayn Khademi, owner of Salon D'Shayn in downtown Phoenix.

A Politico article headlined, "In Arizona, Liberty Trumps the Virus Fight," leads with an anecdote from another frustrated salon owner. The Arizona Cosmetology Board chairman fields calls from stylists asking for guidance and plans an emergency telephonic meeting.

On April 2, pressure on Ducey reaches a fever pitch during a live town hall broadcast, the first and only forum simultaneously aired on TV and radio stations throughout the state. Moderators repeatedly ask about salon services, pressing Ducey on how cosmetologists can feasibly socially distance.

Ducey backpedals, saying such services "are not covered under the order."

"If we need to update the guidance, we will do that," he says.

The next day, as Arizona logs 1,769 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 41 known deaths, he does.

Meanwhile, the virus takes root among a vulnerable population. A Tucson nursing home confirms it has at least 27 cases of COVID-19. The state declines to identify other skilled nursing facilities with cases.

April 7: New measures for nursing homes, out-of-state visitors

In four days, Arizona's COVID-19 count has increased by nearly 1,000 cases, to 2,575. Known deaths again have almost doubled, from 41 to 73.

To protect vulnerable populations at nursing and other long-term care facilities, Ducey urges symptom checks for anyone who enters and asks facilities to separate infected and healthy residents. Officials still refuse to identify nursing homes with positive cases.

The governor also announces quarantine requirements for travelers from the tristate area, as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut report their highest-ever numbers of COVID-19 deaths.

April 14: 'We need more' testing

As cases rise and testing stalls, Ducey announces new drive-thru testing options and some access to antibody testing for COVID-19 for front-line workers.

Public health experts say increased testing is key to understanding the true spread of the virus in Arizona and critical to relaxing any social distancing measures or the stay-at-home order.

"We need more, a lot more," Ducey says. He also issues three executive orders related to health care.

With two weeks left in the stay-at-home order, business leaders, politicians, health professionals, religious groups and the public press the governor for a clearer picture of what will happen next.

The governor appears on radio and television saying he will "follow the data."

April 22: First restriction lifted 

Three weeks after the stay-at-home order took effect, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arizona has increased fivefold, from 1,157 to 5,459. There are also more than 11 times as many deaths — 229. 

Ducey's press briefings take on a new look: He sits, socially distanced, between Christ and Emergency and Military Affairs Director Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire and delivers a presentation packed with charts.

He presents a series of graphs showing the state hasn't come close to running out of hospital beds or ventilators, as officials had feared.

He announces hospitals and outpatient centers can resume elective surgeries. On the possibility of letting his statewide stay-at-home order expire April 30, as written, he says: "We do not want to lose the ground that we have gained."

Polling indicates the majority of Americans are more concerned about restrictions being lifted too soon rather than too late, but protests demanding officials remove restrictions have sprouted at the Capitol after only a few weeks.

Ducey says he does not want to "make decisions too early and be in a position where we have to come back and reverse a decision."

Two months later, he'll have to do just that.

April 29: Rushing reopening 'irresponsible,' Ducey says

With the April 30 expiration date one day away, the pressure on Ducey to make a decision intensifies.

Some Arizonans flood social media and the state Capitol with protests, arguing extending the order will wreak further havoc on local economies and saying their civil liberties have been "trampled."

But Tim Lant, a mathematical epidemiologist at Arizona State University, says it is "scientifically" not safe to reopen unless officials plan to shut down again in a few weeks.

Different modeling scenarios show that reopening at the end of May is the earliest date that wouldn't put Arizona back on an exponential curve of COVID-19 growth.

The state has 7,202 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 304 known deaths. Though the numbers are growing, Ducey is optimistic, saying social distancing guidelines and closures appear to have successfully slowed the spread of COVID-19 overall.

He announces an extension of the order through May 15 but shares plans for a gradual phase-out for some retail outfits. He tells business owners he's "been listening," but "we're going to make decisions in a responsible way.”

The move is in line with the many governors who begin to ease restrictions about this time — some, like Tennessee, are reopening more aggressively, while hard-hit states like New York will wait until at least mid-May.

"I don't think that anybody ever believed that on May 1, we would have a return to normalcy in Arizona," Ducey says.

He says it would be "irresponsible" to make reopening decisions if there was a chance he'd have to "ask people to do this again." 

A handful of Republican lawmakers sharply criticize the stay-at-home extension, calling it "arbitrary," "unfortunate" and "weak." Some sheriffs say they will not enforce the extended order, and some restaurants vow to reopen May 1.

But initial responses from business, medical and religious groups are largely favorable. 

The mayors of Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff urge Ducey to wait until the state sees a 14-day decline in positive COVID-19 cases before lifting more restrictions.

May 4: A significant shift as reopening accelerates

Four days later, something changes.

Arizona has seen a 24% increase in cases and 19% increase in deaths over the previous week, but President Donald Trump has announced a visit to Arizona. Trump has encouraged governors to loosen pandemic-related rules.

One day before Trump touches down, Ducey accelerates his reopening plan for the state. He claims expanded testing and declines in reported COVID- and flu-like illnesses have provided "a green light to make additional decisions for our first step forward."

Epidemiologists question the validity of his data. Expanded testing will naturally cause a decrease in the percentage of positive test results, they say.

Still, Ducey allows barbershops and salons to resume hair, nail, waxing and other services by appointment, and restaurants and coffee shops can start offering dine-in service in the coming days.

All must step up health and safety measures, but a loophole leaves room for bars that offer food service to reopen as "restaurants." Ducey says officials are "making decisions with the confidence that we are going in the right direction."

"If, God forbid, things were to turn in the wrong direction and spike — which we're not seeing that right now anywhere — Arizona's prepared," he says, saying hospitals have plenty of beds available. 

Dr. Thomas Tsai, assistant professor in health policy and management at the Harvard Global Health Institute, says he "wouldn't be confident that Arizona is truly in the plateau period or even beyond it," however.

The same day Ducey speeds up reopening, state health officials tell university experts conducting COVID-19 modeling to "pause" their work. They also restrict the data the team can access.A public backlash ensues, and the state reverses that decision.

May 12: 'Clearly on the other side of this pandemic'

Republican lawmakers lament Ducey's decision not to fully reopen immediately. Others feel he's moving too quickly: On May 11, the day restaurants can resume dine-in service, a coalition of eateries under the banner "Too Soon Arizona" pledge to stay closed. 

On May 12, demonstrators place more than 20 body bags outside the state Capitol to protest against relaxed public health precautions. Cases have increased by 32% over the previous week, to 11,736, and known deaths have gone up by 55%.

That afternoon, Ducey presses ahead, describing the state as "clearly on the other side of this pandemic." He announces gyms, spas, community swimming pools and theaters can soon open, and he'll allow professional sports leagues to begin practicing.

Ducey says the state's numbers equate to "a green light to continue going forward on the way out of this pandemic."

"Now, this is not a green light to speed. This is a green light to proceed with caution," he says. Countless Arizonans will ignore this warning.

Reporters press the governor on whether the recent "testing blitz" skewed the numbers. Officials also have combined diagnostic and antibody tests, making it difficult to determine the true percentage of new cases.

Ducey acknowledges he doesn't know for sure if COVID-19 infections have peaked in Arizona.

He also faces questions about pictures of CASA, a bar and restaurant on Mill Avenue in Tempe, packed to the gills with patrons drinking, dancing and celebrating the first day restaurants were allowed to reopen. He calls CASA an outlier and praises local police for using a light touch in responding to complaints.

A few hours later, people again pack CASA Tempe, as well as Fat Tuesday across the street. That Thursday, Ducey’s office posts photos of the governor having lunch with legislators at Pita Jungle. They stand near each other posing for the camera, none of them wearing masks.

May 20: 'Aspirational' plan to return kids to K-12 classrooms

As the virus continues to spread, measures designed to curb it wane. A week later, Arizona has about 3,000 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total count to 14,897. At least 747 people have died.

But it's impossible to know what the true scope of the spread looks like here: The state still ranks 50th in the nation for testing.

Nonetheless, Ducey announces he is working with education leaders to develop an "aspirational" plan to get Arizona kids safely back in classrooms later this year. 

"We are thinking ahead of what is next," he tells reporters at another afternoon briefing, praising Arizonans' handling of the state's phased reopening so far.

He repeats that the state has met the first round of White House reopening guidelines and is "on a trajectory to head into Phase 2," which would allow for larger groups and the official reopening of bars.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, videos of long lines outside packed Scottsdale clubs with dance floors full of customers flood social media. The ensuing outcry spurs Scottsdale's mayor to scold business owners, but none are cited.

The governor later dodges questions about the weekend’s parties, saying: “I don’t go to the clubs in Scottsdale, so you’re going to have to ask someone who has more information on that.”

Protests against police brutality begin to fill downtown Phoenix streets each night.

May 28: Pushing ahead with K-12 plans

Arizona now sees a spike in COVID-19 cases in the Yuma area, which helps bring the state's case total to 17,763. Arizona has completed fewer than 300,000 tests to date — less than 4% of its population — and at least 857 people have died.

At a news briefing, Ducey confirms schools will reopen for in-person instruction in the fall. Students and parents can expect safety precautions including distancing measures, he says.

It's unclear how that will work in practice: Arizona parents and teachers have argued it'll be impossible to keep kids at a safe distance, as the state has the highest student-to-teacher ratio in the country.

"It will look different. It will feel different," the governor says of in-class instruction. "But the idea is that kids will have a more traditional, routine school day where possible and safe."

Ducey also announces youth summer leagues, summer schools and day camps can reopen. He says Arizona remains in the first of three reopening phases outlined by the White House — even though resuming classroom learning and youth activities are classified as a Phase 2 action. More bars, another Phase 2 item, are opening throughout the state.

June 4: 'We are not in a crisis'

More than two weeks have now passed since the state's reopening. The outlook has darkened.

Cases have increased by 28%, to 22,753, and known deaths are fast approaching 1,000. One in three Arizona nursing homes has had at least one case, federal data shows, and one in five have had a death.

But Ducey says he sees no clear trend in the state's numbers. He indicates he has no plans to dial back the state’s reopening.

"We are not in a crisis situation,” he tells reporters at another briefing replete with slides of data. “If something were to go in a dramatically elevated position, we would be prepared in Arizona.” 

He acknowledges the state had “seen some growth in cases as of late," but he again says that, with increased testing, it was to be expected.

Pictures and videos of Arizonans packing bars, restaurants and pools continue to surface, and some constituents plead for Ducey to shut businesses back down.

Maricopa County public health officials urge individuals to take more vigilant action by avoiding groups and wearing masks. Ducey is almost never seen using a face-covering.

June 11: A note of caution, but no new action

About a month after Ducey allowed the stay-at-home order to expire, the virus is raging, but the governor offers no new plans to combat it.

COVID-19 has sickened at least 29,852 Arizonans and killed at least 1,095. Infected patients are filling ICU beds at Banner Health, the state's largest health system, almost to capacity.

Ducey disputes suggestions he had lifted Arizona’s stay-at-home order too soon, as the state's numbers draw national attention. But he sounds a note of caution about the increased spread of COVID-19.

“We put the stay-at-home order in there so we could prepare for what we are going through right now, and we are prepared,” he says, mentioning hospital capacity again. 

Just two weeks after saying the state was "very close" to moving into Phase 2 of reopening, he says he does not plan to take any new steps toward lifting public health precautions. Nor does he plan to give local governments any more control.

June 17: 'Headed in the wrong direction'

Six days later, Arizona has 40,924 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 1,239 known deaths. Hospitals reported 2,392 new cases in a single day on June 16, with 85% of inpatient beds and 83% of intensive care beds in use for COVID-19 and other patients.

Hospital leaders worry about staffing shortages despite newly added beds. Some providers are still struggling to get test kits and other supplies.

Positive results as a percentage of total tests performed continue to spike. U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz, pushes for expanded contact tracing efforts throughout the state, calling the pandemic "the most acute crisis our state has ever faced."

Nearly 1,000 members of Arizona's medical community have signed on to letters pressing the state to require face masks in public to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The mayors of Tucson, Tolleson and Flagstaff announce plans to implement their own mask mandates whether they have Ducey's permission or not

A few hours later, Ducey and his team arrive at a news briefing sporting masks for the first time. After removing his mask and sanitizing his hands,Ducey announces an abrupt reversal: He will allow local governments to impose and enforce mask policies to curb the spread of the virus.

For the first time in weeks,the governor says the numbers in Arizona paint a clear picture.

"I said two weeks ago that there was not a trend here," Ducey says, pointing to a graph of confirmed COVID-19 cases over time. "Looking at ... the last two weeks of data, there is a trend. And the trend is headed in the wrong direction."

The Arizona National Guard will assist with contact tracing for confirmed COVID-19 cases, he said. Ducey acknowledges he has made "mistakes" but resists taking more aggressive action, such as a statewide mask mandate.

And the state won't intervene in "voluntary events," such as a Trump rally planned in Phoenix, as long as hospitals have inpatient, intensive care and ventilator capacity, he says.

For the first time, however, Ducey orders all businesses in Arizona to take preventive measures, rather than merely recommending best practices. 

"There will be enforcement, and they will be held accountable," he says.

June 25: 'People are getting sicker'

In the eight days that follow, Arizona's case number balloons by more than 20,000, to 63,030. The state faces one of the worst COVID-19 surges in the country, with more than 3,000 new cases reported on four of the previous seven days.

That's likely an undercount, as Arizonans in certain parts of the state are still struggling to get tested. At least 1,490 Arizonans have died.

Inpatient beds and ventilators in use for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients hit their highest-ever numbers. Health care workers again raise concerns about understaffing.

"For us on the front lines seeing patients, the sheer number of patients, and the sickness of the patients has gone in the wrong way," Phoenix emergency department physician Dr. Frank LoVecchio says. "Overall, people are getting sicker."

At his June 25 briefing, Ducey calls the state's numbers "unacceptable." 

But instead of taking new action, he appeals to Arizonans' sense of community to change the course of the pandemic in the state.

Two days earlier, he'd attended a packed Trump campaign rally at a megachurch in Phoenix — the governor and U.S. Sen. Martha McSally wore masks, but almost none of the other attendees covered their faces.

"This is not another executive order to enforce, and it's not about closing businesses," he says. "This is about public education and personal responsibility."

He paints a grim picture of the overwhelmed hospitals and mounting death toll Arizonans could face if they don't step up, saying the state hasn't hit "surge capacity" but could "very soon."

He takes a shot at business owners, saying eight of Old Town Scottsdale's most popular bars and nightclubs have received notices ordering them to comply with social distancing and mask requirements. One has been charged with a misdemeanor for failing to comply. 

State Senate Minority Leader David Bradley, D-Tucson, criticizes Ducey for failing to respond more aggressively, saying he should consider mandating nightclub closures and enforcement measures for large-scale gatherings, among other steps.

"The numbers are not going down, and to that end, we must take more significant actions," Bradley says.

Over the weekend, Arizonans again pack bars, clubs and pools.

June 29: Another partial shutdown

Ducey holds what has now become a weekly briefing days earlier than usual, on a Monday afternoon. The change hints at the urgency of what he's about to say.

Saying he'd seen "the photos and videos of some of the things that were happening around our state this weekend," he announces bars, gyms, theaters and water parks have about four hours to shut down again.

The directive also closes the food service loophole for bars; caps swimming pool crowds at 10 and public gatherings at 50; and allows local governments to enforce closures and restrictions through at least July 27. It does not apply to churches or political gatherings.

"Arizonans have been, by and large, terrific, fantastic and responsible," Ducey says. "But, we have found some situations in categories where we need to take more aggressive actions, and that's what we're going to do today."

The state by now has confirmed more than 74,000 cases, with 3,000-plus new cases reported on five of the past seven days. In addition to the state's 1,588 known COVID-19 deaths, 84% of current inpatient beds and 88% of ICU beds are occupied.

Those numbers, which Ducey deems "brutal," are expected to get worse. Doctors are preparing for triage situations where only those with the best chance of surviving would receive the most comprehensive treatment — what Italian hospitals faced in March.

He delays the start of in-person instruction at K-12 schools will push back two weeks, until at least Aug. 17.

"It will take several weeks for the mitigations that we have put in place and are putting in place to take effect," he says. "But, they will take effect."

Pressed on why he hasn't revived his stay-at-home order or imposed more sweeping closures, Ducey says he opted for a narrow approach. But he says he would do "whatever is necessary to protect the lives and livelihoods of Arizonans" going forward. 

"This is a dangerous virus," he says. "We need to slow it down and contain it."