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Arizona leaders react to Gov. Ducey lifting COVID-19 mandates

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Arizona leaders were quick to react Thursday to Gov. Doug Ducey rolling back the state’s remaining COVID-19 mitigation requirements.

The reaction was mixed, with some praising the Republican leader’s decision, while others disagreed.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego was among those not in favor of Ducey’s actions.

Gallego, a Democrat, said the science contradicted Ducey and worried another surge could come as a result.

“The horrible surge last June was only curbed by masking — when the governor finally allowed cities to do it,” Gallego said in a series of tweets. “To abandon precautions now is like spiking the ball on the 5-yard line.

“We know new variants are circulating. The risk of another surge is real. The governor clearly cares a lot less about the people of Arizona than his political future.”

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero agreed with Gallego, saying the governor’s actions are premature.

“It will jeopardize Arizona lives unnecessarily, the vast majority of Arizonans are not fully vaccinated and the threat of more contagious, lethal variants remains,” Romero said in a press conference Thursday. “It is unfortunate that Gov. Ducey is caving to political pressure from the far-right and hopping on the bandwagon of reckless action of other governors instead of following the science and doing what is best for Arizonans.”

Romero said the city’s face mask mandate will continue.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors also disagreed with Ducey’s call.

“The governor appears to have declared the pandemic over while still retaining his emergency powers to prevent local jurisdictions from protecting the public from a deadly infectious disease,” Pima County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bronson said in a statement.

“We’ve seen this before. He imposed a shutdown order too late in 2020, then lifted it too early and we had the summer spike in infections. He’s making the same mistake and the tragedy of that is more people will needlessly get sick and may die by his reckless action.”

The Health System Alliance of Arizona, an advocacy group, echoed Gallego’s thoughts and urged Arizonans to keep up mitigation strategies.

“Now is not the time to become complacent and declare victory when the virus is still prominent throughout our community,” the group said in a statement.

“COVID-19 mitigation strategies work. Arizona would not be in the position it is in right now without the combination of reduced business capacity, mask mandates and social distancing requirements.”

Democrats in the Arizona Legislature also voice their displeasure over the move.

State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman said the statewide mask mandate for schools would stay in effect, a move she applauded.

“I’m relieved to hear this as masking is one of the top mitigation strategies for safe in-person learning as recommended by the @CDCgov,” Hoffman said in a tweet.

Many were in line with Ducey’s decision, citing several reasons for their support.

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers believed it was time to scale back restrictions.

“With the state’s robust rollout of vaccination resources beginning in December and recent expansion of eligibility to all residents above the age of 16, the governor has made the right and responsible decision to continue moving Arizona forward and ensure that our economy and our people will again thrive,” Bowers said in the governor’s press release.

Senate President Karen Fann said Arizona businesses and small business owners would benefit from the decision.

“Small business owners have shown resilience and strength and our citizens have shown strong personal responsibility,” Fann said in the release. “Gov. Ducey’s guidance protects public health and entrusts Arizona businesses and citizens to continue taking the precautions that will keep everyone safe.”

Steve Chucri, Arizona Restaurant Association president and CEO, expects the industry to be remain responsible after Thursday’s actions.

“Our restaurants know what to do and Gov. Ducey’s updated guidance will allow them to operate the best way they see fit,” Chucri said in the release.

Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke noted vaccine progress in his support of the decision.

“The vaccine is out far and wide, many Arizonans are vaccinated, and COVID numbers are down,” Hartke said in the release. “We’re ready to carefully lift restrictions and trust Arizonans to make responsible decisions.”

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