Carmona wants Arizona’s focus on public health, not politics, in fight against COVID-19

Sep 16, 2021, 11:45 AM | Updated: 11:48 am
(AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)...
(AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)
(AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

PHOENIX — When Dr. Richard Carmona joined Arizona’s COVID-19 response team as an adviser late last month, one of his first goals was to shift the conversation about the pandemic.

The former U.S. surgeon general wanted bickering over mask and vaccine mandates to stop and instead have Arizonans focused on getting vaccinated and practicing mitigation strategies.

Carmona knows the task won’t be an easy one, but a good conversation with Gov. Doug Ducey has him believing proper messaging can steer Arizonans toward public health and away from politics.

“None of them are productive as far as protecting our citizens and that’s what our responsibility is,” Carmona told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad on Wednesday. “[Ducey] agreed and I said let’s agree on something together.

“Let’s you and I be aligned on telling everybody they need to be vaccinated and telling everybody that they need to practice appropriate public health mitigation strategies, not only for their health but for the economic viability and health of our state.”

Debates over the necessity and legality of mask and vaccine mandates have been swirling in Arizona in recent months, even as cases and deaths continue to rise due to the delta variant.

Ducey has led the charge against those mandates, reiterating his anti-mandate stance that has caught the ire of school leaders, Democrats and others.

It’s the kind of standoff Carmona wants to avoid, as he wrote in a blog post Wednesday for the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Only 50.5% of the population in Arizona is fully vaccinated, trailing the nationwide rate of 54.1%, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Arguing over the politics of this has gotten us nowhere,” Carmona said. “The public, if they choose, have remedies to be able to address things they don’t agree with with the Legislature or the governor.

“But for me, those are not productive conversations when people are sick and dying.”

Carmona said he’s received input from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Banner Health and others.

He expects to have more conversations and develop communication strategies soon on a plan he considers a “tough” ask.

“We want our stadiums to be open. We want to go to football games. We want our restaurants to be open. We want to stop unemployment,” Carmona said.

“The best way to get there is to vaccinate and practice these public health mitigation strategies.”

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Carmona wants Arizona’s focus on public health, not politics, in fight against COVID-19