At a Friday Morning Press Conference designed to call attention to the surging COVID 19 health crisis, Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, and Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar implored Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to take more proactive steps in combatting the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Please click here to access the video of the conference.
What the Mayors said about the COVID 19 Pandemic?
All the Mayors agreed that the Coronavirus Pandemic is surging across the state and more needs to be done to contain and reverse the spread of the virus.
Mayor Romero, who presides in Pima County where COVID 19 levels are approaching summer highs, said, “we are heading in the wrong direction.” She later cited the fact that “6,600 lives that are not going to join family for Thanksgiving.”
Mayor Gallego hinted that if people do not change “their behavior by December,” physicians at hospitals, faced with overcrowding and insufficient ICU capacity, may have to make difficult choices on how to treat patients. She also commented that she understood COVID 19 fatigue, especially about wearing masks but said “wearing a mask is better than wearing a ventilator.”
Mayor Evans commented: “we watch the dashboard. COVID 19 does not care about political party, local jurisdictions, or what county you live in.”
Mayor Tovar relayed: “Please remember that these are people behind these numbers. These are members in each of our communities struggling with COVID and others magnified by the pandemic like food insecurity and what is happening with schools.” She also said that as a Mayor “the last thing we want to hear is a constituent dying.”
All the Mayors thanked the Herculean efforts of health care workers and first responders.
What the Mayors said about Moving Forward?
All the Mayors called for Governor Doug Ducey to lead a statewide coordinated effort to combat the Pandemic. Mayor Tovar said, “we need a united voice.” Among the measures the Mayors called for were:
- Statewide mask mandate
- Quarantine people who come in from out of state.
- Need Congress to pass new stimulus relief.
- Ducey to release monies being held by his administration that was earmarked for small cities and towns.
- Help renters, landlords, county health departments, those with food insecurity or cannot access the internet.
- A plan to distribute the vaccine.
- Follow the science and the data.
- Regular contact with the Governor and/or his staff on updates on the state’s plans.
Question and Answer Session with Reporters
After giving their presentation, the Mayors responded to a series of questions from reporters.
On the Enforcement of Mask Mandates
Mayor Romero acknowledged there were “bad actors” who ignored the mandate, but enforcement is left up to the county health departments. They also blamed both the lack of a coordinated statewide plan and leadership from Governor Ducey for the “spotty” enforcing of any mandate. On a follow up of having law enforcement enforce the mandate, Mayor Gallego pointed out that “it would be impossible to have enforcement at people’s homes having big Thanksgivings in their dining room.”
On Governor Ducey asserting that 90 percent of Arizonans are already under a Local Mask Wearing Mandate:
Mayor Gallego pointed out that significant portions of Rural Arizona, with less access to robust health care options, are a large component of that ten percent. She said Ducey did the right thing in extending the mandate for students and schools, and “we should expect for parents and grandparents.”
Mayor Evans called for “clear leadership from the top.” She also said that “everyone needs to be wearing a mask. Science is clear in. We need to make sure many Arizonans should get through the vaccination process. One of the things we could do to respect the efforts of first responders is wearing a mask.”
Mayor Romero reminded everyone that Tucson is not in a bubble and “all it takes is one person visiting from out of town to spread the virus. This should not be a political issue. We should be holding hands together on this.”
On Winter Visitors
Mayor Romero said that winter visitors should undergo a 14-day quarantine or have a negative test result upon arrival in Arizona.
When was the last time the Governor spoke with You?
All the Mayors conveyed that the last time they spoke with either the Governor or his staff about the pandemic was the late spring/early summer.
They all said they would like this contact to resume.
Mayor Tovar, a person whose COVID 19 taskforce is comprised of (including herself,) three people, said: “we need continual communication with the Governor or his staff members: They (when they did contact them) have done a great job. That has lapsed. We need a playbook to go by. We do not have the resources or staff to combat on our end. The simple task of communication. How can we be moving forward together (without it?)
What Steps have the Mayors taken with those in their Communities Most in Need?
Mayor Tovar said “we were able to hire health workers that can go door to door. (We are) offering school meals two times a day for anyone who needs them as well as free internet hotspots. (We are) processing grants for small businesses and coordinating with not for profits and churches. (We are) also, providing free flu shots.”
Mayor Evans reminded everyone that while “Arizona received 1.86 billion in Cares Act funding, small cities and towns under 500,000 did not receive the direct allocation. Governor did not disburse full monies to small cities and towns. He needs to do that without restrictions so we can help with areas like food and rent insecurity.”
Mayor Gallego advised viewers to go to phoenix.gov/resources in order to find out how to receive rent/mortgage utility payment assistance, food assistance, and Wi-Fi assistance to bridge the digital divide. She also acknowledged that federal pandemic unemployment has been helpful, and “we need more.”
Mayor Romero pointed out that with this pandemic, “we have seen the ills of our society highlighted. Our indigenous communities, Latino communities, and communities of color are much more exposed in the numbers rise in exponential levels. That is much more of a systemic issue the country has with our inability to provide health care for all Americans and provide a safety net to our low-income communities and communities of color.”
On Youth Events occurring during the holidays and Winter
Both Gallego and Romero sympathized with youth groups that have planned, sometimes months in advance, for these significant events in their lives. However, Gallego said that these groups should “follow CDC guidelines and not travel for Thanksgiving.” Romero added that these groups needed to “practice social responsibility.”
On Implementing Local Stay at Home Order Mandates.
Mayor Romero answered by reminding everyone that Governor Ducey’s “April Executive order preempted cities and towns from issuing mitigation strategies. He only did it for face masks.” She then said that “we might push for it (local authority.)”
Mayor Tovar finished by saying “mask mandates (happened) because mayors advocated. We need to use our voice to advocate for further action. We need that leadership from the Governors level. We’re doing everything possible to prevent the worst-case scenario.
The Mayors are right. There needs to be statewide coordination and greater hands-on leadership and coordination from Governor Ducey and his team.
It is very surprising that the Governor has not picked up a phone to contact these Mayors since the winter surge began.
There cannot be proper statewide planning or effective leadership without that.
Put state over party Mr. Governor.
Pick up the phone, lead, and do what is best for all Arizonans.