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Coronavirus latest: Arizona, West Virginia become latest states to remove business limits

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Arizona and West Virginia joined the growing list of states that have laid out plans this week to roll back coronavirus restrictions, encouraged by declines in Covid-19 cases and the increase in vaccinations.

Arizona governor Doug Ducey on Friday announced the state is removing limits on capacity for restaurants, gyms, bars with dine-in service and other businesses. Mask and social-distancing protocols will remain in place.

“Like the rest of the country, Arizona has made its way out of the winter surge of cases. And we are leading the nation in the vaccination roll out,” Ducey said.

In West Virginia, businesses such as restaurants, bars and retail stores can operate at full capacity, governor Jim Justice said.

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The moves follow similar actions by governors across the US this week. Texas and Mississippi are ending mask mandates and allowing businesses to operate at full capacity, while Alabama will let its order requiring face coverings in public expire next month.

Those plans drew criticism from some Democrats who argued the rollbacks went too far. President Joe Biden called the decisions by Texas and Mississippi “Neanderthal thinking”.

Justice also raised concerns about rescinding mask mandates, telling CNN he did not know “what the big rush” was to lift those rules. “We are not backing off of our mask mandate at this time,” he said on Friday.

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Michigan and Connecticut, led by Democrats, also moved this week to reopen their states’ economies but to lesser degrees. Connecticut governor Ned Lamont on Thursday said the north-east state will allow restaurants and other businesses to operate at full capacity beginning later this month. Michigan announced changes including an increase to dining and retail capacity and the resumption of small indoor gatherings.

Ducey called Arizona’s reopening plan a “measured approach”, adding that the state is “not in the clear yet”.

“We always knew that fighting this virus would be dependent on the personal responsibility of everyday Arizonans,” Ducey said.

His order also allowed Major League Baseball’s spring training and other professional sports to operate, should their plans for safety protocols receive approval from the state health department.

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