Rep. Ruben Gallego challenges Gov. Ducey’s handling of COVID-19 outbreak

Jun 11, 2020, 7:13 AM | Updated: 9:52 am

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX – U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego has written Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey questioning whether the state leader was taking the coronavirus outbreak seriously enough.

Gallego sent the letter Wednesday, the day the state reported 1,556 new cases of COVID-19, coming very close to the single-day record 1,579 reached Friday.

“Clearly, Arizona is going in the wrong direction,” Gallego wrote. “What does your administration plan to do about it?”

Gallego noted that Ducey has said the rise in cases was expected and partly the result of increased testing.

But public health experts have said it is clear the increase goes beyond that, noting that the percent of positive tests has nearly doubled in the past few weeks.

In a letter sent to hospitals last weekend, Health Director Dr. Cara Christ recommended hospitals “fully activate” their emergency plans — roughly three weeks after the statewide stay-at-home order expired.

That letter contained many of the recommendations outlined in a previous letter the department sent to hospitals in March.

However, the letter also urged facilities experiencing staffing shortages or inadequate bed capacity to stop conducting elective surgeries.

“The percent of positive COVID-19 tests has more than doubled from approximately 5% a month ago to 12% last week, and the largest Arizona health system, Banner Health, has reached capacity for their external lung machines and is close to reaching their ICU bed capacity,” Gallego wrote.

Maricopa County public health officials have recommended people wear face masks when they are out to slow the spread of the virus.

The state has no specific directive about wearing masks.

“I urge you to do more to emphasize the seriousness of the situation to the people of Arizona and take this information into account as you make decisions that will greatly impact the number of lives we lose during the pandemic,” Gallego said.

As of Wednesday, Arizona has 29,852 confirmed cases of COVID-19; 1,095 people have died from the virus since March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Rep. Ruben Gallego challenges Gov. Ducey’s handling of COVID-19 outbreak