By Jacob Holter
PHOENIX – Gov. Doug Ducey stood by Arizona’s past and present response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, despite harsh criticism from other politicians and growing concern from health experts as the number of deaths in the state topped 2,000.
“My decisions are not going to be influenced by any attempt to please the press, and they will not be influenced by politics in any way,” Ducey said during a news conference Thursday. “Everything we will do going forward will be to promote and protect public health in Arizona.”
Ducey issued a new executive order with guidelines to limit the use of indoor dining in restaurants to 50% of capacity, but critics pointed out that a rule limiting restaurant occupancy has been in place since June 17. U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, tweeted this during the news conference:
Just a quick note, AZ – June 17, new guidelines for restaurants were issued. Capacity was limited to under 50% of fire code. Masks required.
THIS IS NOT NEW.
Link to the June 17 executive order and restaurant guidance here:https://t.co/ZtjW7o59wN
What the hell is going on?
— Kyrsten Sinema (@kyrstensinema) July 9, 2020
Ducey also announced an increase in testing, through public and private partnerships.
In a statement Wednesday, Joe Biden, the 2020 presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, called upon the Trump administration to intervene to protect the residents of Arizona.
The former vice president noted how Arizonans who want or need to get a COVID-19 test “have been forced to endure 13 hours in line in the boiling heat.”
Arizona is one of four states that White House health adviser Deborah Birx suggested should reinstate stricter limitations on the public because of the uptick in infections. The other states are Florida, California and Texas.
Hospitals in Arizona report that 89% of intensive care beds and 87% of in-patient beds are in use, according to state health officials, raising concerns that health care facilities are close to being inundated.
Biden said Arizona hospitals “are overwhelmed, the test positivity rate is soaring, and the pleas of local leaders for help were repeatedly dismissed.”
Vice President Mike Pence said in a news conference Wednesday that Arizona seemed to be flattening the curve in regard to new COVID-19 infections – a claim Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego rebuffed Thursday.
“We are still seeing new cases all the time, and to say that bending it a little bit lower is success doesn’t feel that way to the people in our community who are still waiting more than a week for a test,” Gallego told The Washington Post. “Our doctors and nurses tell me that they are exhausted and treating so many more patients than they were just a few weeks ago.”
At his Thursday news conference, Ducey acknowledged that Arizona experienced a “brutal June” and has entered a “time of maximum challenge right now.” He also voiced concerns that the fall and the flu season could raise a host of new dangers.
Ducey urged local residents to wear masks and stay home as much as possible, echoing a call by Gallego earlier in the day.
“I believe our residents will do the right thing if they get accurate information,” Gallego said. “I am calling on every elected official from the president on down to send a message that wearing masks works and that staying at home can slow the spread.”
As of Thursday, July 9, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported a total of 112,671 cases of COVID-19 and 2,038 deaths in the state. It said 841,282 tests for COVID-19 have been completed in public and private labs in Arizona, and 11.5% of tests have come back positive for the virus that causes the disease.
Pair refused to wear masks, coughed on store employees, police say
Yuma police arrested Frank Montoya, 38, and Victoria Parra Carranza, 23, after employees of a Walmart store say the pair refused to follow rules to wear masks inside, 12News reports. Face coverings are required under company policy and Yuma’s emergency order. Montoya and Carranza reportedly became hostile when asked to wear masks and coughed on multiple employees. Responding officers said neither suspect cooperated, and Montoya became combative and tried to flee. Both were booked into the Yuma County Jail.
COVID-19 survivors donate blood plasma in hopes of helping others
Tuba City Regional Health Care on June 24 hosted the first COVID-19 convalescent blood plasma donation on the Navajo Nation Reservation, according to The Navajo Times. It reported that 11 survivors of the coronavirus that causes the disease donated their plasma, which contains antibodies that are used in experimental treatments of the illness. Convalescent plasma donors must be free of any COVID-19 symptoms for at least 28 days, according to Elfreida Bizaholoni, the infection prevention control officer at hospital.
Why some Arizona bars are staying closed for now
Linger Longer Lounge co-owner Jade Noble is among Phoenix bar owners who told The Arizona Republic they don’t plan to reopen soon, citing tight workplaces where social distancing is nearly impossible. Other businesses are trying to figure out ways to stay open with takeout and other options. On June 29, Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order to shut down bars once again, in response to the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Arizona.