Arizona leaders call on Ducey to enact meaningful coronavirus mitigation

Dec 3, 2020, 4:35 AM | Updated: 2:54 pm
Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey arrives for a news conference to talk about the latest Arizona C...

Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey arrives for a news conference to talk about the latest Arizona COVID-19 information Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued a slew of executive orders Wednesday aimed at mitigating the spread of coronavirus, none of which necessarily satisfied calls from hospitals and education leaders in the state.

Ducey allocated an additional $60 million of funding for hospital staffing, ordered enhanced business guidelines and regulations for group gathering events.

Top hospital officials in Arizona sent a letter to Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ this week pleading for tougher mitigation measures as hospitals systems become overwhelmed.

Some of the actions included banning indoor dining and group athletic events, implementing curfews and limiting gatherings to no more than 25 people.

Banner Health, the state’s largest health system, is predicting it could surpass its hospital bed capacity as early as next week and 125% bed capacity by mid-December. In November, its hospitals in Phoenix and Tucson saw COVID-19 hospitalizations jump as much as 95%. The same period also saw coronavirus patients go from making up roughly 25% of intensive care unit patients to 50%.

Hospitalizations related to the coronavirus statewide reached 2,699 as of Tuesday, including 642 patients in intensive care unit beds. Hospitalizations peaked around 3,500 during a summer surge.

The Phoenix City Council took their own action by shutting down athletic field reservations and tournaments managed by the city until the coronavirus spread returns to moderate, effectively shutting down large groups of club sports traveling from out of state to host tournaments.

In addition to hospitals, education leaders cotninue to ask for more action in an effort to keep Arizona’s schools open for in-person learning. Ducey has said he wants the state’s schools open for in-person education.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos & Chad that she’s disappointed with the governor’s lack of action as schools pivot to distance learning because they have no choice.

“This is dangerous. This this is a crisis,” Hoffman said.

The Department of Education unveiled a statewide tracker this week that allows the community to see what mode of learning schools and districts are operating in, whether that’s in-person, hybrid or distance learning. The tracker comes as more schools shift to distance learning as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

Hoffman said she wouldn’t pull the plug statewide to push all schools into a distance format because the coronavirus spread varies in different parts of the state and offering in-person support is critical to success.

“This is devastating to me, that every single time a school site closes or a district is closing that it’s just heartbreaking because again, we want our students to have those wraparound supports in the classroom,” Hoffman said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona leaders call on Ducey to enact meaningful coronavirus mitigation