Carla Scmidt Hernandez said she needs a haircut. Connie Whitener, pointing to her hair, said it’s time for a perm. They made their wishes known with the signs they held during a rally held Friday on 4th Avenue, near 24th Street.
About 100 people, most not wearing masks, participated in the rally, with some people coming and going throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Some were there to thank first responders, but the majority were urging Gov. Doug Ducey to completely reopen the Arizona economy.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor expanded his stay-at-home order to May 15 but is allowing some nonessential retail businesses to reopen with health precautions. He first ordered the cancellation of gatherings of 10 or more people on March 17. On March 19, the governor ordered the closure of restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theaters, followed by the stay-at-home order on March 30, that only allowed listed essential businesses to remain open.
But some Yumans and business owners are getting antsy. Whitener said it was time to “beautify Yuma” by opening up beauty and nail salons. Nearby, Mary Hewitt held up a sign asking for support for small businesses, which she described as “America’s backbone.” She was there to support a friend who owns a beauty salon. She noted that her friend’s employees are getting unemployment but, as the owner, she doesn’t qualify.
On the other hand, Jazz Miller believes it’s better to work instead of getting unemployment benefits, as he indicated with his sign.
The rally was held in front of the closed barbershop, The Barber’s Lounge, owned by Louie Santos. “I feel we are losing our rights day by day,” Santos said.
Although the federal government has released relief funding, he hasn’t received any. In the meantime, he and his 14 employees in the two shops he owns are struggling, he said. “Every day that passes, they have less money to feed the family.”
Gilbert Hernandez, chairman of the Colorado River Tea Party, organized the rally with help from other citizens, including Pastor Charles Wesner of the First Southern Baptist Church of Wellton and Karl Kizer, the Tea Party’s sergeant in arms. They are concerned that some small businesses won’t recover from the pandemic. The purpose of the rally was to convey to the governor the message that Arizona wants and needs to get back to work.
“A lot are hurting and have no income, but the rent is still due. They have no savings,” Hernandez said, adding that he knows of three businesses about to close their doors permanently if the closures continue for much longer.
“Even those open part-time, like restaurants, who offer carryout, they’re not making enough to pay for APS and the rent,” he said. “The governor needs to understand that business owners know how to project themselves. They know what precautions to take.”
He also noted that the closed economy will negatively affect local government. He pointed to the 2% hospitality tax that comes from restaurants and bars, and said he’s afraid that tax revenues will be so short that the city will be forced to cut services, including parks and pools.
“They won’t be able to pay lifeguards,” Hernandez said.
He doubts the need to close businesses. “I’m not saying it’s not a harmful virus, but I’ve seen other viruses like this. There have been many, many other flus and pandemics, and they’ve never done this before.”
As reported by the Associated Press, the Republican governor said there are signs the spread of the new virus has slowed in the state, but there’s no clear indication that deaths and new cases are trending down. He can’t more fully reopen the state until that becomes clear, Ducey said.
He’s allowing retail businesses to open next Monday with curbside and delivery service or with appointments, and they can completely reopen by the end of next week if they take steps to allow social distancing. He’s said restaurants will not be allowed to reopen their dining rooms before May 12, but he hasn’t decided when he’ll lift the restrictions now in place.