At Governor Doug Ducey’s press briefing today, we had a State Chief Executive that clearly knew Arizona had rising COVID 19 cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities.
He knows that hospital capacity is starting to burst at the seams and there is a greater need for additional testing and contact tracing.
He, contrary to the perceptions of his fringe base, acknowledged that the Coronavirus is not like the flu.
He understands, based on his response to questions following his remarks, that reopening schools on August 17, in his words, is “aspirational” and probably unlikely.
He also recognizes the need to wear masks, not go out, social distance, and stay home.
Unfortunately, while the Governor talked a good game, saying he will not play politics with regards to this pandemic, he did as he engaged in some revisionist history regarding COVID 19 numbers after the lifting of the stay at home order in mid-May and the announcement of additional measures that fell well short of recommendations by local mayors like mandating people wear masks.
Engaging in Revisionist History
As the Governor presented the latest numbers which he insisted showed the beginnings of a plateau and potential decline in new cases, he attempted to present a revisionist history of the first days after he lifted his stay at home order in mid-May, saying that the numbers showed all was well until early June when the surge started.
Two points here.
Of course, the numbers did not change the first two weeks following the lifting of the stay at home order. Most people know that the Coronavirus has a two-week incubation period. When Ducey says the numbers were fine after lifting his stay at home order, he failed to mention that this was likely due to the incubation period. Fast forward two weeks from his lifting of the stay at home order to the end of the Memorial Day weekend and the numbers start to go up shortly after.
Another point is that to try to make a disconnect between his lifting of the stay at home order and the surge is insulting to the many other leaders and specialists that knew at the time and before what will happen if Ducey let the COVID 19 genie out of the bottle with his lifting of the order.
Doug Ducey would have helped himself if he had just said he messed up and pledged to do better.
A real leader would do that.
Announcement of Additional Measures.
Recognizing that the measures he has implemented over the last two weeks (letting local mayors mandate the wearing of masks, more contact tracing, the prohibition of large gatherings, and the closing of establishments like bars, gyms, and nightclubs) may have started to have an effect, Mr. Ducey announced several other measures to further help turn the direction of the spread of the virus. These included:
- Limit new indoor dining to less than 50 percent (it had been 50 percent than two)
- More prescriptive in our guidance.
- Dramatically expand testing called Project Catapult at 35,000 tests by the end of July and 60,000 by the end of August.
- Expand free testing in partnership with CDC (the media blitz by Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego at various national and state news stations helped) with emphasis on Maryvale and South Phoenix. The first drive-through testing will be on Saturday, July 11 in West Valley.
The Governor concluded his comments by saying the next two weeks are pivotal and that he strongly encouraged people to stay at home, wash your hands, wear masks and social distance if they have to go out with Mr. Ducey saying to do it “for your neighbor, family, and the hospital worker.”
Question and Answer with Journalists
The Governors question and answer session with journalists started well when he showed surprising strength (perhaps because he is aware of an Arizona Education Association survey where 80 percent of classroom teachers will only return if they know it is safe) when he said with regards to school reopenings in the wake of Mr. Trumps wanting in-person instruction to resume starting next month:
“We are going to do what is in the best interests of Arizona. We’ll reopen schools when it is safe. If it is not possible for, in person (instruction,) we will do it virtually.”
The interaction with reporters went downhill after that high mark with the Governor engaging in double talk and the blame game on several questions on topics that included:
- What he would do for people who were on the verge of being thrown out after his eviction moratorium lapses on July 23. The reporter who asked the question pointed out that people are being evicted now. Ducey engaged in some evasion and double talk and appeared to blame people on unemployment not using the added $600 a week they are getting (if they are receiving it; many people are still waiting and have no way to cover their bills) to pay their rent.
- On the dining room at 50 percent indoor servicing requirement, Ducey was asked by one writer what local scientists he had consulted with for guidance. He could only name Dr. Crist. When it was pointed out by another journalist (Bram Resnik) that this new directive was just a slight adjustment from one he had made in June, the Governor did not take kindly to that interpretation.
- Whether he was in touch with the deceased victim’s families, Mr. Ducey did not seem to directly answer how many of the over 2000 families he had contacted.
- When asked why, in light of most people not wearing masks at a July 4 weekend event in Prescott, he would not mandate people to do so, the Governor said “any mandate is only as good as the compliance and local enforcement.” Where was this wimpy response when he imposed a week-long curfew after a few of his wealthy friends had their shops vandalized last month in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing?
- On not doing what mayors and physicians have recommended on mandating the wearing of masks or closing more at-risk businesses like salons, the Governor engaged in more double talk, saying he was keeping his options open.
To see the full press briefing, please click on the video link below.
Governor Ducey can not please everyone.
His leadership style can not be: Please wear a mask or I will ask you to please wear a mask again.
While the steps he has taken have been helpful, they are not enough. He needs to fully embrace what is necessary to turn the tide on the pandemic and yes, heed the advice of the opposing political party who have been more right in this situation than he has.
Two letters were sent to the Governor today suggesting ways to move forward.
One was by Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez and Health and Human Services Ranking Member Kelli Butler.
The other was sent by Mayors Coral Evans, Kate Gallego, Regina Romero, Anna Tovar, and Corey Woods.
They call for the same measures such as more testing and contact tracing, a mandate on wearing masks, the closing of more at risk establishments and, if necessary, a new stay at home order.
After the press briefing, Senate Democrats at the State Capitol voiced their displeasure with the Governor as well, issuing a collective statement, echoing the requests of the first two letters and demanding Ducey stop trying to please his fringe base at the expense of the health and safety of everyone else with his “piecemeal” measures.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero wrote:
It is time for Governor Ducey to act like a real leader and take all the steps necessary to stop the COVID 19 surge.
With the Grand Canyon State now among the global leaders in new COVID 19 cases, the people of Arizona can not endure the science-denying whims of his base or Republican extremists like Andy Biggs and Kelly Townsend any longer.
Too many people have died needlessly already.
It is time to change course.