Coronavirus updates for Gilbert from March 12-20

coronavirus (COVID-19)
Here are what local institutions are doing about the new coronavirus. (Rendering courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Here are what local institutions are doing about the new coronavirus. (Rendering courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Updated March 20 3:19 p.m.

Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced March 20 that Arizona schools will remain closed through April 10. Hoffman said in the announcement that requirements will be waived for state standardized testing and that the state is finalizing details with the federal government regarding the waiver.

Updated March 19 5:45 p.m.

Gov. Doug Ducey announced in a series of tweets that he is activating the National Guard to assist grocery stores and food banks,

in addition to issuing an executive order halting elective surgeries in the state to free up medical resources. Gov. Ducey also issued an executive order that requires restaurants in counties with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to provide dine-out options only and closes bars, movie theaters and gyms—restaurants will be allowed to deliver alcoholic beverages with a food purchase. The order takes effect close of business March 20.

This will affect Maricopa County, as the county has 22 confirmed cases.

He also issued an executive order to delay expiration dates on Arizona driver licenses
"ensuring residents over the age of 65 do not need to visit Motor Vehicle Division offices to renew their driver licenses during the public health emergency," according to the governor's website.

Higley USD to begin meal service

Higley USD will begin free meal service March 23, the day district schools were to return from spring break before state cancellations.
Any individual age 18 and younger may pick up breakfast and a sack lunch from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, in a drive-thru style service at all Higley schools.

There are no income or resident requirement as this is part of a federally funded program open to anyone under 18 years old. Individuals must be present to receive the meals and meals are to-go only.

Children attending Community Education’s childcare will automatically receive meals.

Updated March 19 12:51 p.m.

Arizona small businesses will get disaster loan assistance

The U.S. Small Business Administration approved an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration for Arizona to help small businesses in the state impacted by COVID-19. Individual businesses can be eligible for up to $2 million through the program.

Gov. Doug Ducey requested the economic assistance, which is made available through the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act signed by President Trump on March 6.The loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of COVID-19’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses without credit available elsewhere. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75 percent. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Arizona businesses impacted by COVID-19 may apply for the loan through a portal on the SBA website.

Town keeping businesses open

Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels said the town is following state of Arizona guidance and Centers for Disease Control in not shuttering businsesses.

"We’re counting on our business to help us—owners and operators to please help us help you," Daniels said in her video update for March 19. "We want you guys to remain economically viable during this situation. We also want more than anything for our people to stay healthy. So we’re trying to balance those two ,and we need your help."

Daniels had a conference call with more than 200 businesses on it the morning of March 19 to listen their concerns, answer questions and hear ideas.

Gilbert texting service

The town of Gilbert is offering residents COVID-19 updates through text. To subscribe, residents must text the world "Gilbert" to 313131.

Updated March 18 4:10 p.m.

Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels spent Wednesday meeting with local business leaders, gathering input on how to help."Our goal right now is not to close [local businesses]," Daniels said in a video update March 18. "We want them obviously to obviously put in place some of the restrictions and the smart ideas, adhere to the [Centers for Disease Control] guideines, and so we're going to help them do that."

In the video, Daniels said more information about small-business assistance will come at an 8 a.m. conference call March 19.

Maricopa County state of emergency

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman signed a proclamation of a local emergency in Maricopa County March 18, according to a statement from the county.

The proclamation of a local emergency will grant the county access to additional resources, according to the statement from the county.

During this local emergency, the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will have the authority to impose "all necessary regulations to preserve the peace and order of Maricopa County," according to the county.

“The County is following guidelines set by Arizona Department of Health Services and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health to protect the safety of our community and residents,” Hickman said in a statement. “This proclamation helps us get funding and supplies to the responders on the front line.”

As of March 18, Maricopa County had 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Small-business assistance

Gov. Doug Ducey submitted an application requesting a disaster declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration due to the coronavirus. If the disaster declaration request is approved, business owners can apply online for disaster loan sssistance through the SBA's application portal.

College testing postponed

The ACT tests for juniors March 24 and April 4 have been postponed. Additionally, The College Board cancelled May 2 SAT testing as well as March makeup exams. Registered students will receive refunds. Additional testing opportunities will be scheduled when feasible.

Higley USD day camp

Higley USD announced that with the closure of schools, it is planning to operate Kids Club, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., March 23-27. The ratio of teacher-to-students is 1:5. Thecost will be $20 a day, with a $25 registration fee for new families. Daily fees will be waived for parents who are first responders or health providers.

Updated March 17 11:35 a.m.

Health department encourages restaurants to go to pickup service

The Arizona Department of Health announced March 17 guidance for restaurants, dining establishments and bars that encourage curbside or drive-through pickup.

"ADHS strongly recommends dining establishments in areas of known community spread discourage dine-in traffic and instead provide curbside pick up/drive through service. Restaurants should establish protocols that allow food delivered to cars," read a tweet from the Arizona Department of Health. "If dine-in options are provided, social distancing measures should be implemented, providing space for customers to be placed at least 6 feet apart, and limiting space for customers to congregate in areas of the restaurant."

Some Gilbert restaurants and businesses have already taken precautions in line with this guidance, according to their social media pages.

Updated March 16 9:26 p.m.

Mayor declares state of emergency in Gilbert

Mayor Jenn Daniels declared a state of emergency in Gilbert on March 16 to ramp up efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Daniels said the move gives the town, by Arizona statute, better access to cleaning and medical supplies as well as the ability to close municipal buildings to the public.

As such, the town is closing its municipal buildings to the public beginning at 4 p.m. March 17. McQueen Park and Freestone Park recreation centers will remain open as dropoff voting locations for the day for the Democratic Party presidential preference election.

Additionally, many town staffers may begin working from home. However, Daniels said town essential services, such as police, fire and utilities, will be unaffected.

Parks and recreation classes will be canceled. Those who signed up can receive refunds of their fees or deposits.

The town previously had canceled senior programming and special events through April 10, but had left other parks and recreation classes open at that point.

The senior center is among the municipal closures. However, meal service through AZCEND at the center to seniors in need will continue either by delivery or pickup at the center, 130 N. Oak Street, Gilbert.

The town also is closing Town Council and Planning Commission meetings to the public, though they will be live streamed from the town website. That includes the special council meeting March 17 to appoint a replacement for Eddie Cook, who resigned Feb. 14 to become Maricopa County assessor.

“We just want to continue to continue to instill faith,” Daniels said. “We have the greatest confidence in our residents and their ability to make sound judgment calls and hope that they will continue, as we've done our best to set a standard, to follow and bring their own good ideas to the table.”

Daniels said she hopes residents will practice good social distancing without allowing themselves to become isolated.

“If you're in need, if you are feeling lonely or fearful or you have anxiety, reach out to someone,” Daniels said. “We want to make sure people understand that human connection is a really important part of our community, and we just need to find some additional ways to access that.”

Daniels urged residents to check on neighbors and look out for another in a video message to residents.

The town is keeping updated information on its website at

Updated March 16 4:48 p.m.

GPS, Chandler USD meal service

Gilbert Public Schools and Chandler USD are offering meal service to all children under age 18 upon the districts' scheduled returns from spring break.

Gilbert Public Schools announced March 16 it will provide free “pick-up-and-go” meal service for children age 18 years and younger.

The meals will be served from the district’s four junior high schools—Greenfield, Highland, Mesquite and South Valley—plus Harris and Meridian elementary schools. Breakfasts will be distributed from 7:30-8:30 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. weekdays.

Service begins March 17, the day students were scheduled to come back from spring break. Gilbert Public Schools announced March 13 the district’s schools will stay closed coming back from the break until further notice to join efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus.

In Chandler USD, the district will begin serving curbside pickup meals from March 18. District enrollment is not required.

The service will be extended if schools continue to be closed.

Children must be present at pickup. Meals should be consumed off site after pickup.

The meals may be picked up at Chandler or Hamilton high schools’ main entrances between 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. A breakfast and a lunch will be served during each meal period.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced March 15 that all public schools in the state would be closed at least through March 27.

Theater closures

In the wake of Ducey’s announcement that gatherings of 50 or more people should be suspended, Hale Theatre Arizona canceled all performances through May 9, which was to be the end date for an upcoming production of “Brigadoon.”

Likewise, Actor’s Youth Theatre has suspended normal operations until at least March 27, but has not announced if or how it would affect an upcoming production of “Getting to Know ... Footloose” at the Tuscany Theatre.

Higley Center for the Performing Arts said the March 20 performance of the Gilbert Symphony Orchestra, which was to honor the town’s centennial, was canceled, as well as an April 16 performance of the U.S. Air Force’s Airmen of Note group.

Higley Center Manager Robert Zucker said the center remains open to renters who wish to proceed with their events, but that remains subject to change daily as the situation develops.

High school sports

While high school athletics is suspended with the school closures at least through March 27, the Arizona Interscholastic Association, the governing body for most high school sports in the state, announced that it was not yet canceling it springs sports championships. Most of those tournaments happen in late April and early May.

Food bank

The Midwest Food Bank in Gilbert said it was ramping up its food procurement and distribution efforts in hopes of remaining available to provide food to overburdened feeding programs.

However, it has canceled volunteer events at its Gilbert warehouse for the next two weeks. It will run operations with staff and core volunteers.

The food bank is not accepting food donations at this time, relying instead on efforts already in place.

Updated March 15 4:02 p.m.

Gov. Doug Ducey and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced the closure of all Arizona schools from March 16 through March 27.

"The safest place for children during this time is at home," read the joint statement. "They should not be cared for by elderly adults or those with underlying health conditions, including grandparents and other family members."

The state is looking to assemble resources and forming community partnerships in an effort to reduce the impact of the closures on families.

Updated March 13 7:10 p.m.

Gilbert Public Schools closes

Gilbert Public Schools announced March 13 it will close schools until further notice to support state and national efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The district has been on spring break with students due to return Tuesday, March 17.

“Please be assured, we have been preparing for this possibility and continue to develop contingency plans as the situation evolves, with the goal of meeting the needs of our students and community,” Superintendent Shane McCord said.

Closed along with classes are athletic games, practices, performing arts events, school events, field trips, preschool, before and after school care, and facility rentals.

However, transportation for East Valley Institute of Technology students will continue as long as EVIT, which partners with the district on career and technical education, remains open.

The district said details about food provisions and potential online learning opportunities would come in further communications from the district and on the district website at

Updated March 12 4:10 p.m.

Higher education closures

The Maricopa County Community College District announced March 12 that the district, which serves Chandler-Gilbert Community College, will extend its spring break to March 20 due to coronavirus concerns.

Park University, which has a campus in Gilbert, announced March 12 that as of March 16, all in-person classes will move online.

Arizona State University announced this week that all in-person classes would move online for two weeks, and University of Arizona announced it will delay the start of classes returning from spring break to March 18. At that point the university will assess whether or not to continue in-person classes or move to online classes wherever possible.

Updated March 12 9:23 p.m.

Town special events canceled

The town of Gilbert announced March 12 it is canceling special events and all senior programming through April 10 in response to the spread of coronavirus.

The biggest event is the Gilbert Global Village Festival scheduled for April 4. That has been postponed until Nov. 7, according to the town.

Senior recreation classes are canceled through April 10, but the Senior Recreation Center, located at 130 N. Oak Street, Gilbert, will remain open. Meal assistance through AZCEND will continue but move to drive-through or delivery service.

Other outreach programs, such as ride-alongs, facility tours, truck displays and volunteer programs, will be suspended through April 10.

Gilbert parks and facilities will remain open with additional cleanings of high-touch areas in public buildings.

Community Impact Newspaper Chandler Editor Alexa D'Angelo contributed to this report.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.