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Arizona health officials brace for winter visitors amid coronavirus surge

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Health Services plan to implement enhanced testing and public service messaging at airports as winter visitors make their way to the state as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

“As more snowbirds arrive and holiday visitors travel to Arizona, many are entering through the airport,” Ducey said at a press conference Wednesday. “It is the gateway to Arizona.”

Ducey noted that AZDHS Director Dr. Cara Christ and her team will begin working with Phoenix Sky Harbor International, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway and Tucson International airports to launch on-site coronavirus testing locations.

They will also ramp up messaging about where they can get tested and the importance of wearing a mask. Even though Arizona does not have a statewide mask mandate, places like Phoenix, Tucson and Maricopa County have mandates in place.

Christ also issued additional guidance for people planning to gather for Thanksgiving next week.

“These simple steps will help slow the spread and help reduce the risk of increased cases after the holiday,” Christ said. “We want all Arizonans to stay safe during the holidays.”

The guidance suggests moving gatherings outdoors, hosting fewer people and practicing proper sanitation.

The state’s top health official also warned people to not let their guard down and continue wearing a mask if they’re around people not in their household.

When it comes to food, the guidance suggests avoiding self-serve options like buffets and to use single-use options, like plastic utensils, if people are sharing food.

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