Coronavirus updates for Gilbert for March 20-23

The coronavirus has had wide-ranging effects in Gilbert, from closures of schools to closures of municipal buildings. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

The coronavirus has had wide-ranging effects in Gilbert, from closures of schools to closures of municipal buildings. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Updated March 23 5:18 p.m.

Gilbert Public Schools' free meal pickup service is moving to drive-thru service starting March 25. A child must be in the car.

The district has two additional sites for pickup: Augusta Ranch Elementary School and Gilbert Classical Academy. It already is in place at Harris and Meridian elementary schools and Greenfield, Highland, Mesquite and South Valley junior highs.

Higley USD remote learning

Families with students in the Higley USD will receive an email from the district the evening of March 23 about the transition to remote and continuous customized learning beginning March 30.

The e-mail will include a link to a survey where families can indicate their needs for an electronic device. Only one survey needs to be completed per family.

While school administrators, teachers and staff have returned to their duties, campuses are not open to the public.

Case count

The number of COVID-19 cases in Maricopa County is now 139, up from 81 the previous day, according to public health officials. Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels said in a video message March 23 cities and towns no longer receive individual updates for their municipality as officials were concerned that would compromise individuals' privacy. Only county data will be reported.

Daniels said the town is in touch with its hospitals to understand their load and how they are handling that.

Updated March 23 4:36 p.m.

Temporary signage

The town of Gilbert is allowing businesses an increase in the number of temporary signs allowed through April 10.

No sign permit is needed for these new signs, but the town land code's requirements and limitations of such signs and the prohibition of them in public rights-of-way remain in place.

Updated March 23 2:18 p.m.

Governor increases virus surveillance

Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order March 23 requiring commercial laboratories to provide lab specimens and data to the state for in-depth analysis as it navigates the spread of the coronavirus.

The governor also issued another executive order to detail what constitutes “essential services” in the state so that the state has one consistent, overarching policy.

The governor said as the state works to increase testing capacity, it expects more confirmed positive cases.

Updated 12:59 p.m.

Banner Health opens drive-through testing stations

Banner Health announced March 23 it has opened four drive-through specimen collection sites in Arizona where patients showing symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested.

The nonprofit health system company is opening three sites in Maricopa County and one in Tucson but not announcing the site's locations. More locations are coming, according to the company. Banner is a major employer in Gilbert with several urgent cares, health clinics and two hospitals.

The sites are by appointment only and not accepting walk-ins. Patients are asked to call 1-844-549-1851 for a phone screening to determine if the person meets the Centers for Disease Control criteria for testing. If a test is determined necessary, an appointment will be scheduled. The phone number is staffed 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday.

Banner announced on Friday it was closing all its locations to visitors. Exceptions are made for pediatric patients to have one adult present. At hospitals, labor patients may have one support person with them, while all other locations will allow one support person for people with cognitive or physical disabilities. Those guests are subject to screening for respiratory illness.

Gilbert utilities

The town announced it will not be turning off anyone's water service at this time. Additionally, public works released a video urging people to take of their pipes by not flushing "flushable wipes" or material other than toilet paper.

Gilbert buildings

While most municipal buildings remain closed, the town has three buildings open: Gilbert Municipal Court, Gilbert Police Department's main station and Household Hazardous Waste Facility. The town continues to conduct business online with most staff working from home.

GPS Summer School registration

Gilbert Public Schools' summer school registration is temporarily on hold. The district will announce when registration reopens.

State information line

Gov. Doug Ducey announced March 22 the launch of an information line for residents with coronavirus concerns. Residents can call 2-1-1 to have their questions fielded.

Updated March 22 9:12 a.m.

Arizona records second COVID-19 death

The Arizona Department of Health Services and Maricopa County Department of Public Health confirmed the second death due to COVID-19 in Arizona. The individual was a man in his 70s with underlying health conditions. On March 22, according to Maricopa County, the number of COVID-19 cases was 81, up from 49 the day prior.

Updated March 21 12:38 p.m.

Gilbert cutting hiring, spending to only keeping essential services running

The town of Gilbert is cutting hiring and spending to only what is needed to run essential services as it navigates coronavirus developments.

According to an email Town Manager Patrick Banger sent to staff March 21, “All hiring and spending through the end of the fiscal year will be focused solely on essential items and personnel needed to keep critical operations running.”

Gilbert’s fiscal year runs through June 30. The change is effective immediately.

Additionally, Banger encouraged staff to purchase from vendors in Gilbert and the local area.

The town unveiled a map on Alex, the open data portal on the town website, with which businesses could identify how patrons could support them, and Banger pointed staff members to the page as means of helping them to make local purchases.

“Your focus on purchasing only essential items needed to continue operations and supporting local businesses will help Gilbert recover more quickly when this pandemic passes,” Banger wrote.

Banger also praised staff’s work through the coronavirus situation.

Updated March 20 7:44 p.m.

State records first COVID-19 death

The Arizona Department of Health Services and Maricopa County Department of Public health confirmed the first death due to COVID-19 in Arizona. The individual was a male in his 50s with underlying health conditions, according to a news release.

“We express our deepest sympathy to the family and friends grieving their loved one during this difficult time,” said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS Director in a news release. “COVID-19 is a serious disease that can be fatal in anyone, especially our elderly population and people with underlying health conditions. We expect to see more cases of COVID-19 in Arizona, and there could be more deaths. It is imperative that everyone takes precautions to protect you and your family from this disease.”

Updated March 20 5:41 p.m.

State extends school closures, waives standardized testing

Gov. Doug Ducey and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced March 20 that the closure of all schools in the state would be extended two weeks until April 10.

“We want you to know our goal is to get kids safely back in the classroom as soon as possible while allowing parents and educators certainty so they can plan and make decisions,” Ducey said. “We will continue to work together to determine what’s best for kids and schools in the face of COVID-19.”

Hoffman said state standardized testing will be waived this year and details will be finalized with the federal government in coming weeks.

Hoffman also said the Department of Education is working together with education leaders at all level to provide guidance about graduation in the coming days and weeks.

Ducey said he is ready to sign a bill that would assure teacher and staff pay will not be interrupted.

He said the state is teaming with the nonprofit, faith-based and business communities to make childcare available for those in need, but noted that the best place for them is at home. A list of providers is available on Ducey also said children should not be cared for by elderly adults or those with underlying conditions.

Other state actions

In a separate series of tweets, Ducey announced he is issuing an executive order to give those people who are facing economic hardship from COVID-19 to have access to unemployment benefits.

Furthermore, Ducey said the Arizona Department of Revenue is extending the income tax deadline to July 15 to mirror the newly extended federal deadline.

Alex data portal map for Gilbert businesses

Gilbert has started a place on the Alex data portal of its website for businesses to submit how patrons can support them at this time. The site is

Chandler USD adds meal sites

Chandler USD announced March 20 it will expand to offering curbside meals for students at five school sites—Andersen Junior High, Willis Junior High, Perry High, Chandler High and Hamilton High schools. Meals are available from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Higley USD, GPS educational support materials

Higley USD and Gilbert Public Schools have created collections of education materials and activities to support student learning while schools are closed. The HUSD materials can be found at on the district website. GPS's materials are on its website.

Earlier updates affecting Gilbert can be found here.
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.