Flanked by state leaders and emergency managers, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey told the public in an update on Friday that fighting COVID-19 will take more time, and made a desperate plea for food bank volunteers.
"We don't have any illusions about this fight. We are in this for the long haul," Ducey said in a videotaped press conference in Phoenix. "I think it's important for people to think of this as a marathon, not a sprint."
Ducey issued sweeping executive orders the previous evening, activating the National Guard and ordering the closure of bars, movie theaters, and gyms in counties with active cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the highly infectious novel coronavirus. Ducey's orders also ban dine-in service at restaurants, delay the expiration date of driver's licenses, and cancel elective surgeries.
As of Friday, state statistics put the total number of cases at 78 — nearly double that of the previous day. The actual number of cases of COVID-19 is Arizona is almost certainly far higher, though, due to the lack of testing the state has done and shortage of test kits.
The directive on businesses and elective surgeries will be revisited every two weeks and repealed or revised if necessary, the orders state.
The stringent steps would save lives, Ducey assured Arizonans, many of whom are living in lockdown conditions amid a crumbling economy. Ducey and Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, directed much of their speech on driving volunteers to local food banks, which are facing unprecedented demand. On one day last week. St. Mary's Food Bank in downtown Phoenix served 1,152 families, "the most ever on a day not on Thanksgiving," Ducey said.
Yet as demand has exploded, the supply of volunteers and donations has dwindled.
St. Mary's typically gets 200 volunteers per day, six days a week, but that has dropped by about 75 percent, a food bank spokesman told New Times on Tuesday.
"If you can spare some time, come on down and volunteer," Ducey said. "Get out of the house. Show your kid some good practices."
"The COVID-19 outbreak is causing anxiety about the disease and how it's spreading in Arizona," Christ said. "Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Things like volunteering and helping your community make your community stronger."
Click here for a link to the St. Mary's Food Bank website's volunteer page.
Among the anxiety-causing factors in the crisis is the way some shelves have gone empty in local grocery stores that suddenly resemble a scene from the Soviet Union. Eggs, bread, many canned goods, and, of course, toilet paper and other paper products are scarce. The main reason Ducey mobilized the National Guard is to "ensure that Arizonans have continued access to food," as he tweeted previously.
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At Friday's press conference, Ducey talked about how just two trucks are needed to restock a grocery store, but in recent days, "it's taken 12 trucks to restock a grocery store. So this is a proactive measure to ensure when you go to the store, you'll find food and essentials on the shelves."
Major General Michael T. McGuire, Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs director, said the Guard had set aside a "limited number" of the total of 8,209 Guardsmen to fulfill food needs. They'd provide logistics help including trucks to get supplies to the stores.
"But I can tell you that with only 8,000 of us, we can't stock every store in the state," McGuire said. "We need people to go out and get to those folks, look for opportunities for jobs, look to pivot to help in volunteer groups [and] non-governmental groups."
As in previous statements, Dr. Christ said she expected to see more COVID-19 cases in the near future, and Arizonans remain at a "heightened state of risk."