Arizona Medical Association Happy With Move To Allow Cities To Require Face Masks

Published: Friday, June 19, 2020 - 12:29pm
Updated: Friday, June 19, 2020 - 2:07pm
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MARK BRODIE: Several cities across the state have already moved to require residents to wear masks in public after Gov. Ducey gave them that authority on Wednesday. The move also got a thumbs up from the Arizona Medical Association, which earlier in the week had said how dismayed it was that the pandemic had become so politicized on both sides, and called for Arizonans to wear cloth masks in public. With me to talk more about this is Dr. Ross Goldberg. He's a general surgeon at Valleywise Health in Phoenix and president of the Arizona Medical Association. And Dr. Goldberg, your organization's voice has been among those calling for more action to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. Based on what you've heard over the past couple of days, are we moving in that direction?

ROSS GOLDBERG: Yes, I think we are definitely moving in the right direction. I'm not going to say we're all the way there yet. We've got some ways to go. But I do think this was a positive direction of trying to stopping the spread of this disease.

BRODIE: Is there anything that you would have liked to have seen the governor do in addition to what he did earlier this week?

GOLDBERG: You know, it's, it's an interesting question. There's a lot of debate over the mandating mask wearing versus strongly asking people to do it. And you can come on either side — I actually understand both sides of the argument. I actually appreciate the fact that he decided to let local governance kind of take over here because it's, it's true. Arizona is a very diverse state with a lot of different issues and needs. So what's good for one area is not good for the other. So I actually like the fact that he is giving mayors and city councils the ability to police a little bit on their level. That actually will, I think, help in those areas that are having a higher spike.

BRODIE: What are you seeing when you're out and about in the community in terms of Arizonans wearing masks? Are we doing enough?

GOLDBERG: Some are. Let's put it this way. It's easy for me to say there's a problem. I work in a hospital, I see it every day. I'm at a hospital that has COVID patients. I have been on the COVID floors. I've taken care of COVID patients. So I understand how real and how dangerous this virus is. But for lots of people and that's OK for lots of people, they haven't seen it firsthand or witnessed it. So it's hard to wrap your mind around it. It makes it tough to say, "Why should I do something to help when it's really not around me at all?" Unfortunately, we're seeing that kind of change with it being around a lot more people. So people understand, and I think people are going to... Those who weren't really participating before are probably at a higher likelihood of participating now. Not everyone were wearing masks. That's why we kept on asking for people to do it. I have a feeling more will be doing it now, which I hope they do. It really does work. I also understand the fact that we give recommendations that change. That's the nature of medicine. As we learn about a disease, we change our recommendations based on our data.

BRODIE: When you talk about the enforcement of wearing masks for those cities that are going to be putting those in, education is how this is going to start — that's what the governor had said and what a lot of city officials have said. They don't want to just start issuing tickets. They want to give people the chance to put on a mask, for example. In your mind, is that the right approach here?

GOLDBERG: Yes. This isn't meant to be a punishment. This is a big change for a lot of us. Like I'm a surgeon, I'm used to wearing masks for long periods of time. But for the public, this is not a normal daily existence. Maybe other countries, yes, but not here. So I absolutely think, really, education is key. There's been a lot of misinformation out there. It's been a little distressing how politicized mask wearing has become. It really shouldn't be a political argument. This is a medical issue. And really, I think if people took the time to listen and hear and experience exactly what we're talking about, they're going to see it's not that bad. It's different. Do we want it [to] be long term like this? I hope not. But, you know, this is one of those where you're doing it for other people. And that's another difficult thing sometimes to wrap your mind around, right? What you're wearing the mask for is not at all to protect you, it's to protect everyone else. I think you educate people up front. You give them a chance to learn and understand. You have a less negative reaction and more compliance.

BRODIE: You mentioned that the issue of wearing masks has become politicized. And I'm wondering from your perspective and maybe the perspective of the other docs around the state that you represent, how has that affected the way that you do your job as relative to COVID-19? That this issue, the virus itself and some of the precautions that we can take have become so politicized and such political hot potatoes it seems?

GOLDBERG: It has. It's, it's, I don't have good answers. It's unfortunate. I can't change what I do. I wear masks. I wear masks out. I wear a mask in places where I may have been the only one in the city. When I walk into a certain place and they give me a look and I'm OK wearing it. I'm hoping others now join me, they kind of, some of them have to at this point if you think about it. But it hasn't changed what we do. And, you know, it just emphasizes to us that on the health care side, we need to be vigilant and careful when we're taking care of patients. We need to make sure we have the correct PPE on, the personal protective equipment, so that we don't have the chance of getting the virus if we can help it. You know, what other people are doing and I try to emphasize to is by everyone wearing these masks and reducing transmission, yes, you reduce cases, but then you also reduce the number of people we get exposed to. We've shown exposure over and over to the virus does increase your risk of having significant problems. So the less exposure the health care workers can have as well is also a really important benefit because you have to remember, there's only a finite number of us. And if we all get sick, there's no one left to take care of anyone. So we really are trying to protect multiple groups here by doing a really simple thing by wearing a mask. It's just, I think now we're finally starting to make some headway in getting people to realize how important it is, especially with the data coming out showing these trends that there is a positive impact from wearing masks.

BRODIE: What is the capacity like at your hospital right now?

GOLDBERG: We're keeping a close eye on it. We're still doing OK. We're doing good enough so that we're still doing, you know, our normal business as well. I mean, that's the balance we have to do, right? Other diseases don't go on vacation because we've got COVID-19. They still need to be taken care of. And so we still need take care of our, our chronic patients, our acute patients. So we're doing OK. Again, it's just a, a close monitoring and being able to be adaptable and flexible as the numbers change, as they ebb and flow with us.

BRODIE: All right, that is Ross Goldberg. He's a surgeon at Valleywise Health. Also president of the Arizona Medical Association. Dr. Goldberg, thanks for your time. Be well.

GOLDBERG: Thank you. Have a great day.

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