Governor Doug Ducey, who has been widely criticized for his handling of Arizona's severe COVID-19 outbreak, was eager to share some good news at Thursday's live update. He cited the flattening number of daily new COVID-19 cases and a decrease in the test positivity rate, a gauge of how quickly the virus is spreading.
"Today, we see the first evidence of the trend heading in the right direction," he said, pointing to graphics from various news outlets showing how Arizona's COVID-19 numbers stack up to other states. "We want to push that decline further."
But that's no cause for celebration, he said, and urged Arizonans to keep abiding by public health recommendations like wearing face masks and staying at home when possible. With Arizona still reporting thousands of new COVID-19 cases every day, he made no changes to his current partial shut-down order that closed certain businesses like bars and gyms. The state still lacks a mask-wearing mandate, despite research showing their effectiveness in limiting the spread of the disease.
Ducey also announced that he is extending his moratorium on residential evictions to October 31. The moratorium was originally slated to expire on July 25, prompting concern and criticism from advocates and state lawmakers that an avalanche of evictions in late July would force many people into homelessness.
"It’s our new normal for the foreseeable future," Ducey said of the pandemic. "I really want to ask people to get their heads around that, that this is going to be a challenge that is ongoing."
He attributed the slight reversal of the state's COVID-19 trends to the measure that he's taken so far to stem the virus' spread.
"That is a direct effect of decisions that Arizonans have made over the past week, and we can see more of this if we do more of that," Ducey said. "There can be no substitutes for things like masking up in Arizona."
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While the governor stressed that K-12 schools would open in some format in about "five weeks," he punted on any specifics.
"I will be providing the most specific guidance that I can," Ducey said. "Expect that next week."
In a statement released shortly after Ducey's press conference, Arizona Senate Democrats criticized him for lacking a "more comprehensive approach," and called for a statewide mask order, ongoing funding for free COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and PPE for medical professionals and schools.
“We are disappointed again that the Governor refuses to take stronger actions to curb the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus," the statement reads. "This fragmented strategy has clear consequences — consequences that could have been avoided had we taken the pandemic seriously earlier."