While acknowledging “the end is not on the horizon” with the Coronavirus Pandemic in Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey announced some enhanced COVID 19 mitigation measures at the state’s major airports and schools, but refrained from proclaiming a mask-wearing mandate for the Grand Canyon State.
He also condemned death threats against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and reaffirmed his confidence in the Arizona electoral process.
Please click below to watch the press briefing.
Both Governor Ducey and Health Services head Dr. Cara Crist acknowledged the reality of the Coronavirus surge in Arizona.
To date, according to Dr. Crist at the press event, 283,102 Arizonans have contracted COVID 19 and 6,365 have passed away.
Crist, in speaking to the reporters and viewers noted that trends showed COVID 19 cases, test positivity rates, and hospital stays were rising.
According to her, “all but two counties had a positivity rate above ten percent and all the metrics were heading in the wrong direction.”
Ducey and Crist recommendations
Both Ducey and Crist announced the following recommendations and directives:
- Recommend wearing masks at all public settings and anytime around other people not living with them. Ducey, after declaring that he does not belong to either the extreme lockdown everything or COVID is a hoax camps, said:” Masks work. Please wear them.” Ducey repeated that several times and noted that 90 percent of the state is under a local mask mandate
- Unfortunately, the Governor did not call for a statewide mask mandate, noting that, in his opinion, his approach of asking people to wear masks and having mayors in their local jurisdictions do what was best for their communities was working well. Defensive during the question-and-answer session with journalists, he asked reporters to consider that other state Governors with mask mandates still had COVID surges. He also said that he was not playing politics with the issue. He is when he is catering to the whims of the extremists that think this is all a hoax by not mandating the wearing of masks
- Crist recommended that “Thanksgiving gathers occur outside with reduced guest sizes, wearing a mask if you are around people who do not live with you, stay physically distanced, washing your hands frequently and celebrating virtually with your loved ones if you are higher risk, elderly, sick, or have been recently exposed to someone with COVID 19.”
COVID testing at Major Arizona Airports
- Ducey announced a doubling in investment in public service announcements for snowbirds arriving including inbound messaging and targeted testing at the major airports (Sky Harbor, Tucson, and Mesa Gateway.)
- He also announced targeted testing for snowbirds who are arriving for their winter stays at any of these three airports.
- Unfortunately, the Governor did not say how they would test winter residents who drive into the Grand Canyon State.
- Ducey reaffirmed his desire to preserve an option for families to have in-person learning in their public school district.
- He also announced a school emergency directive to make sure schools are following mask policies in schools and school busses.
Health Care/Essential Workers
- Ducey pledged $25 million for essential staff at hospitals. He also said he could access more funds if they are needed. They will be.
- During question and answer with reporters, the Governor said that, right now, there is enough hospital capacity.
Vaccine Development and Distribution
- The Governor said that the recent announcements of positive vaccine developments over the last week with Moderna and Pfizer give Arizonans “some hope and a positive light at the end of the tunnel.”
- He also said that Crist would be developing a task force on distribution to ensure the readiness of vaccine distribution and the identification of vulnerable populations (like Native Americans) that would receive the medication first along with essential workers like those in hospitals and nursing care facilities.
Death Threats against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs
In perhaps his best response during the question-and-answer session, Governor Ducey condemned the death threats made towards Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and her family, calling them “unacceptable and I denounce any death threats against any elected official or anyone else.” He also said his people at the Department of Public Safety were working with the Secretary of State’s Office on helping to protect her, saying “we will do everything it takes.”
Reacting to Ducey’s comments, Secretary Hobbs said: “We would like him to denounce the threats and stand up for the integrity of our elections.”
November 3, 2020 Elections
Possibly fearing a backlash from the fringe base of his own party, Ducey threaded a fine line on the November 3, 2020 elections, repeatedly saying a variation of:” I stand by statements I made before the election. Allow legal challenges to be swiftly adjudicated and I will respect the results. Once the process is adjudicated, I will accept the results.”
His base may have thought he slipped a couple of times when he said “we can trust our elections here in Arizona” and hinting that Martha McSally, compared to Trump, was mature enough to finally concede to Mark Kelly.
Reaction to the Ducey Press Conference
Democrats were displeased with the lack of both an announcement of a statewide mask-wearing mandate and a more robust COVID 19 combat strategy from Governor Ducey.
Matt Grodsky, the Communications Director for the Arizona Democratic Party, responded to the Governors Press Conference by commenting:
“The Governor’s leadership deficiency is appalling. We need a mask mandate and a clear plan of action, not more empty rhetoric. The lives of Arizonans depend on it.”
Newly designated State Legislative Democratic Leaders Senator Rebecca Rios and Representative Reginald Bolding issued a joint statement which said:
Incoming Senate Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios:
“Today Arizona added 3,206 new COVID-19 cases and 53 more Arizonans lost their lives, leaving their families and loved ones devastated. And today, the Governor had the opportunity to take bold action to mitigate this new spike and put people back to work and school safely — to at least follow the White House and CDC guidelines for mitigation, but he again came up short. Other than the additional $25 million to help hospitals combat the virus, the Governor’s half measures are inadequate to substantially slow the spread of the virus. We continue to urge the Governor to take swift and preemptive actions to curtail the virus’s spread, beginning with a statewide mask mandate. This fragmented approach has had clear consequences for struggling Arizona families and our economy. The holiday and flu season are fast approaching and our COVID-19 cases are reaching deadly summer levels. So please do your part and mask up. We must do more, work together, and let science be our guide to stop the spread.”
Incoming House Democratic Leader Reginald Bolding:
“We need to get Arizonans back to work safely if we are going to rebuild our economy. We cannot effectively do that by continuing to take passive steps while cases spike and as more people are losing their lives and livelihoods. House and Senate Democrats have repeatedly called for a statewide mask order knowing that more people will respect it if it comes from the Governor. We also need ongoing and proactive COVID-19 testing and contact tracing per CDC guidelines, and PPE for medical professionals and schools. Additional resources for hospitals and frontline workers will help, but it is clear that we need to do more than the status quo, and we stand ready to work with the Governor when he is ready to increase state unemployment benefits and provide further small business support. Our time is running out as the holiday and flu season are fast approaching and our COVID-19 cases are reaching deadly summer levels. A vaccine is on the horizon but it’s not the immediate horizon. Until then we must listen to the science and I urge you to take every possible precaution for the ones you love and your neighbors until we can drastically curb the spread of COVID-19 once again.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman tweeted:
I appreciate the new effort to offer testing at our major airports, including @PHXSkyHarbor, and a uniform policy regarding masks in schools & school buses. Any effort to slow the spread is welcome & needed.
But, we must do more to minimize the spread of #COVID19.
— Kathy Hoffman (@Supt_Hoffman) November 18, 2020
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego also posted on social media along with a video:
— Mayor Kate Gallego (@MayorGallego) November 18, 2020
Before the Press Conference, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero posted:
I am asking Gov. @dougducey to
🔸Institute a statewide mask mandate
🔸Set a smaller occupancy limit on in-door social gatherings
🔸Implement a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for out-of-state travelers
🔸Strongly encourage Arizonans avoid gatherings outside their household
— Regina Romero (@TucsonRomero) November 18, 2020
In the spring, it was the Democratic Mayors of Flagstaff, Phoenix, and Tucson that led the charge in calling for Doug Ducey to take more proactive steps in stemming the COVID 19 tide as the virus started its summer surge.
At that time, Ducey gave local mayors the power to decide what measures to take in their towns and cities to combat the pandemic.
He took a similar approach with giving school boards the discretion when to reopen for full in-person instruction.
That approach will probably not work now with the winter upon us and the Coronavirus surging for possibly the next three to four months.
It is time to listen to these Democrats again and adopt a coordinated statewide strategy to fight COVID 19.