Ducey Hints That Plans Are Forming to Reopen Bars, With Restrictions

Governor Doug Ducey introduced another ad campaign around mask usage at his press conference today
Screenshot of livestream
Governor Doug Ducey introduced another ad campaign around mask usage at his press conference today
Governor Doug Ducey acknowledged that COVID-19 mitigation measures are making a difference, but said at his weekly press conference today that it's still too soon for a "victory lap."

"If anything it's evidence that the decisions and sacrifices Arizonans are making a difference," he said.

Ducey spoke as Arizona entered its sixth month of the pandemic that has seen 3,626 deaths and 170,798 confirmed cases. While the seven-day average of new cases continues to drop, Thursday still saw 172 deaths and 2,525 new cases added to the total. Intensive Care Unit capacity continues to hover around 85 percent statewide.

Going forward, Ducey said the state will continue to ramp up testing.

Representatives of Sonora Quest Laboratories, the state's largest testing processer, said today that they'd cut their 60,000 test backlog in half and were expecting to clear it completely by Sunday with the addition of three new testing lines. They expect to be reporting results within one to three days starting next week, with the goal of reporting within 48 hours by the end of August.

Arizona Public Health Association Executive Director Will Humble told Phoenix New Times earlier this week that he hopes enhanced turnaround times will fix the lag in testing numbers that experts speculate is driven by the long wait for results many have experienced.

Arizona Department of Health Services spokesperson Holly Poynter said in an email that the two federal surge testing sites that closed this week only performed 15,146 tests over two weeks out of their potential capacity of 60,000.

Beyond testing, Ducey didn't offer many specifics in his latest pandemic update. Guidelines from Arizona's Department of Health Services for schools aren't expected until August 7, 10 days before leaders hope to start the school year. In response to a reporter's questions about Arizona's unemployment benefits, one of the lowest weekly payments in the nation, Ducey pointed to the need for Congress to extend federal benefits.

"We've done our job on this," he said. "It's on Congress to act."

Unemployment was only at issue because of the pandemic, Ducey said. People who were receiving benefits before COVID-19 hit could've found a job "at any time," he claimed.

Arizona had an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent in January and February, slightly higher than the national average at the time, before the shutdown-related layoffs began.

He also hinted at discussions around new guidelines for bars that may allow them to re-open with measures to meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. At least one bar has called on the governor to allow it to resume service outdoors, and his order closing bars is currently facing a legal challenge. Under the current order, bar closings are re-considered by Ducey every two weeks and will be up for renewal next Thursday.

Ducey also shared some new ad campaigns around mask-wearing the state has contracted. Last week, they emphasized manly mask wearing:

This week they emphasized sports, with "maskots" (that's Arizona sports team mascots wearing masks) and this gently wafting hot dog air drop: