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Doug Ducey ramps up public health funding, offers free masks for elderly

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey announced a hefty deposit into the public health fund to help combat the coronavirus spread in Arizona on Thursday.

During the governor’s press conference, Ducey announced the state is contributing an additional $50 million to the fund. More than $6.7 billion has already been sent out through the state, Ducey added.

“We are going to continue to make investments in public health in the state of Arizona,” Ducey said.

Part of that investment means focusing resources, such as face masks, on the vulnerable, especially the elderly.

While the state has seen about 90% of residents following mask compliances, according to Ducey, not everyone in need can obtain a mask.

To help fill the gap, the state is providing three free nonmedical cloth face masks starting Friday for those 65 or older or who are medically vulnerable.

“The state has always been working with congregate care facilities to provide direct shipments to meet the needs of their residents in these categories,” Ducey said.

Another way Ducey and state health officials are hoping to limit the coronavirus surge is through increased testing.

The state has seen over 950,000 tests since the pandemic began months ago, but is hoping through Project Catapult, testing can increase exponentially.

“When we get to the end of July we will be conducting or have the capacity to conduct a million tests a month,” Ducey said. “By the end of August, nearly two million tests a month. This gives us more knowledge of the virus … and that knowledge will be power to make better decisions and to protect more people.”

The partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services will provide diagnostic testing in Arizona at Maryvale High School and south Mountain Park. All participants will receive a cloth face mask. The state is also working with Arizona State University on further saliva-based testing, which is less invasive and pain-free, in the areas that need it.

The testing will run from Friday until July 29.

With additional testing needed, the state has added to its frontline workforce as well.

“As of this week, we have a contract with Vizient Incorporated to provide nursing staff to our hospitals for the six weeks,” Arizona Health Director Dr. Cara Christ said during the press conference. “The cost of the entire program is being assumed by the ADHS.”

The department’s first priority was filling nursing holes in rural areas, especially those with a high number of transfers through the Arizona surge line, Christ said.

Large metropolitan hospitals that accept high numbers of transfers through the Arizona sure line were second priority.

“A total of 584 nurses will be provided to 21 hospitals around the state. It’s 250 inpatient or medical surgical nurses and 334 critical care nurses. 74% of those nurses were provided to our central and southern regions because we know that those high acuity metropolitan hospitals are taking a significant amount of the transfer patients.”

The program is expected to be on the ground in the next seven to 10 days, Christ said.

The state health department has also provided $10 million to expand post acute care capacity. Currently in negotiations with the Skilled Nursing Facility System, the contract “has the potential to add up to 330 additional beds statewide,” Christ added.

For Arizona vaccine information, visit azdhs.gov/findvaccine.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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