When the history of how Doug Ducey and Cara Christ handled the Coronavirus is written, significant portions will be allocated to how wimpy the two of them have been because they feared the lunatic fringe of their party.
The Governor displayed this at the briefing yesterday (October 29, 2020) when he acknowledged that COVID cases in Arizona were rising (saying “A storm is ahead of us,”) and that the pandemic would get worse again in the Grand Canyon State (please click here to read about the pandemic resurgence in the Navajo Nation.) However, he did not announce any new measures to combat it.
This was also shown on their allowing maskless superspreader Trump and Pence Campaign Rallies. The Governor was visibly annoyed on getting questioned about that at the briefing yesterday.
Ducey has also been resistant, perhaps in order to satisfy his base, to help people in need by tapping into State Revenue reserves to increase the weekly unemployment insurance allotments. While he has allocated some targeted resources to areas like food banks, school reopening needs, and increased child care, these monies are somewhat meager compared to what is and will be needed.
Finally, they also have demonstrated their wimpiness by letting local mayors and school boards determine whether or not to mandate masks or reopen schools for public instruction. That way they hope to not get the blame from the fringe right.
On the school front, both Christ and Ducey were caught this week attempting to cater to their extreme base when they changed the school in person closure metrics.
As reported by ABC 15 News, the Arizona Department of Health Services revised their recommendations for schools to shift to virtual instruction. Before this week, schools could shift to virtual instruction if any one of three metrics (COVID cases, Positivity Rate, and Coronavirus Level Hospitalization levels) had reached a substantial level.
The change made by Christ’s department changed that recommendation to schools should close if all three metrics were at the substantial level.
The Arizona Department of Education, in a response to ABC 15’s reporting, issued a statement that read:
“The Arizona Department of Education relies on public health experts at the state and county level to work directly with schools to interpret local health data and assist school leaders in making decisions regarding the appropriate instruction model for their communities. Changes or adjustments to public health recommendations are communicated from public health entities to schools through these channels. Schools are advised to work closely with their county health officials to interpret these recommendations and make the best decisions for their communities.”
In response to a request for comment from Blog For Arizona, Morgan Dick, a Public Information Officer for the Arizona Department of Education, on when the Department was notified, added:
“ADE was aware conversations were being held and were notified of the official change last week, and it is our understanding that the updated information is shared with schools through their ongoing conversations with local county health officials. ADHS’ recommendations serve as a guiding framework, but decisions regarding the most appropriate instructional models are based on a variety of factors at the local level including localized data and context. School leaders are in regular communication with county health officials to help guide their decision-making processes as data is updated on the school data dashboard each week.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman also issued remarks on social media, writing:
“Schools need clear, consistent guidance on how to use the Benchmarks for Safely Returning to In-Person Learning. While local school leaders retain the authority to protect the health and safety of their school communities, they need clear recommendations on returning to distance learning. After today’s conversation with the Arizona Department of Health Services, they will release further clarification regarding recent changes to the reopening benchmarks to ensure local school leaders can make appropriate, evidence-based decisions.”
Later when Blog for Arizona followed up on what school districts were consulted about these changes, Richie Taylor, the Communications Director for the Arizona Department of Education responded on October 29, 2020:
“We can’t speak to who DHS consulted about the changes, you would need to ask them if they involved school districts. Yesterday, the Superintendent pushed DHS to clarify their changes and make clear the local school districts have the ultimate decision making authority on selecting an instructional model and deciding when it is appropriate to close a school. The clarification will also state that a school may be advised to close by a local county health department even if one benchmark has moved to the substantial or red zone in a community. These changes will be posted by DHS later today.”
At the earlier mentioned Thursday briefing with reporters, both Christ and Ducey literally stepped in it when they said they had consulted with education leaders about the changes in the metrics.
When asked which ones, both Ducey and Crist evaded in their responses.
That was news to the education leaders.
Hoffman immediately posted on social media:
“The Arizona Department of Education did not request or recommend any changes to the Arizona Department of Health Services school benchmarks.”
Joe Thomas, the President of the Arizona Education Association (AEA) also posted on social media, stating:
“I meet with the leaders of various AZ education organizations at least once a week. No one has any idea who the Governor is referring to when he said (multiple times) “education leaders” asked ADHS to make the changes to school recommendations.”
Facing the community backlash from school stakeholders (like parents and teachers who are voting by November 3,) the Arizona Department of Health revised their revisions on October 29, 2020.
Please click here to review.
The very last sentence of the Metric Guidelines reads:
“ADHS recommends schools work with their local health departments. After transitioning to a hybrid model, schools should consider resuming virtual learning when one or more benchmark categories are in substantial transmission.”
Ducey and Christ need to understand there are more important considerations than appeasing a political base during a pandemic like public safety and saving lives.
They need to do better and not subject anymore Arizonans to unnecessary risks like this in the dark attempt to change the school reopening metrics or their reluctance to do more at the state level to help those in need.
That is what good government is all about.
That is what good public servants do.