A day after he imposed new restrictions to curb the steep increase in COVID-19 cases in the state, Gov. Doug Ducey was still coming under fire Friday for not doing enough.
Mayors of Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Tempe and Tolleson said in a letter to the governor that they were “deeply concerned with the exponential rise” in COVID-19 cases in the state and called on Ducey to implement stronger, statewide restrictions.
In a conference call organized Friday by Protect Our Care, to discuss the rising number of cases in the state, Pima County Supervisor Ramon Valadez expressed frustration at the “complete and utter lack of leadership” he said is coming from the Ducey administration.
And Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in broadcast interviews Thursday and Friday to say that without statewide restrictions, people who travel around the state are going to “come home and stress a health care system that’s already hurting.”
Calls seeking comment from Ducey’s office were not immediately returned Friday.
But the comments come as a new poll shows Ducey has the lowest ranking among governors for his handling of the coronavirus. Ducey was also the only governor in the nationwide poll by the COVID-19 Consortium to rank below President Donald Trump, with a 32% approval rating compared to Trump’s 34%.
They also come as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state rose by 4,221 and the number of virus-related deaths grew by 44.
Faced with the spiraling numbers, Ducey on Thursday ordered dine-in restaurants to cap seating at half their capacity, he imposed new COVID-19 reporting requirements on state hospitals. He also announced agreements with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and Arizona State University that should result in thousands of more tests per day in the state.
But the mayors said it’s not enough for Ducey to encourage people to stay home and catch up on Netflix as he did Thursday. They called for a statewide requirement that people wear masks in public settings, for increased testing and an expansion of contact tracing, among other requests.
“Our economy will not recover until we are able to slow the spread and rebuild consumer confidence,” the letter said. “The longer we wait to act, the longer and more severe the blow to our economy will be, the longer it will take to safely send our children back to school, and more lives will be needlessly lost.”
In the Friday conference call, Arizona Public Health Association Executive Director Will Humble credited the Ducey administration for taking the right steps early in the pandemic. But Humble, the former Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the state moved too quickly to lift restrictions in May, going from “phase zero to phase 3 in one day,” and it’s paying the price now.
“There were so many things that didn’t happen in early June, and the warning signs were there,” Humble said.
Valadez was more blunt.
“I plead with our governor to finally get his head out of the sand and look around,” he said.
As of July 10, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 116,892 cases of COVID-19 and 2,082 deaths in the state. It said 860,295 tests for COVID-19 have been completed in public and private labs in Arizona, and 11.7% of tests have come back positive for the virus that causes the disease.