Ducey Reluctant To Mandate Another State Shutdown Despite Rise In Coronavirus Cases

Published: Monday, June 29, 2020 - 12:26pm
Updated: Monday, June 29, 2020 - 12:27pm
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STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Arizona's dreary place in the national spotlight has brought heightened scrutiny to the officials responsible for mitigating the virus. Gov. Doug Ducey [is] chief among them after he chose to begin reopening the state and initially withheld local governments' power to mandate masks in public spaces. Since Arizonans began returning to restaurants and crowding popular spots, cases have been spiking and hospital beds are filling up. But the governor doesn't seem to have an appetite for another shutdown, arguing his goal is to protect livelihoods as well as public health. Jeremy Duda of the Arizona Mirror has covered state politics and the governor for many years, and he recently wrote about what we're seeing here for The Washington Post. And he's with us now. Jeremy, good morning.

JEREMY DUDA: Good morning.

GOLDSTEIN: So having covered the governor and knowing how he tends to act, are you surprised at all by his response over these last few months trying to maybe hedge both sides of this?

DUDA: Kind of. Yeah. You know, during the shutdown, you know, he extended — which he extended, I believe, I can't remember if it was once or twice — but he did extend that shutdown. And it seemed like he was taking a very cautious, deliberative approach. And then all of a sudden, you started to see Republican lawmakers and other critics really start to ratchet up the pressure on him to reopen. And, you know, less than a week later, less than a week later, after you saw the governor taking this kind of firm stance and telling bars and restaurants that they're jeopardizing liquor licenses, if they weren't following the rules. Just a week later, we saw this reopening. And, you know, a few weeks later, lo and behold, these numbers started shooting up.

GOLDSTEIN: Jeremy, how does the governor seem to be taking feedback on this? You mentioned that, you know, he was hearing from people who wanted him to open up. Now he's hearing from hospitals and some others who are concerned about the speed at which this is happening and the number of cases we're seeing. How is he responding to all of that?

DUDA: Well, now he seems to be taking this much more seriously. I mean, for weeks we saw these numbers going up, hospital capacity going up, total hospitalizations going up, the percentage — the daily percentage of COVID tests that were positive going up. And the response we were getting was really, you know, "This isn't really that bad. We're just doing more testing, and that's why the numbers are going up. We expected it to go up a little after we reopened, but everything's fine because we have enough hospital capacity." Over the last couple weeks, you've seen a very big change in the governor, in the way the governor is approaching this. You know, last week is, he had his weekly press conference. And it was a very somber tone, very serious, warning everyone that even though the numbers have got — keep — kept getting worse. and even though we're now making changes where cities can require masks in public, that the numbers were going to get worse for a few more weeks before they started to get better, really impressing upon people the need to wear masks in public to socially distance, to stay home unless it's necessary to go out. So we've seen a make a massive change in tone. Now, whether that means the governor is going to be receptive to some of these new calls for additional restrictions, even a new state shutdown, I don't — it's hard to say how receptive he'll be towards that. I mean, the last the last major change it took when he allowed cities to mandate mask usage in public — cities and counties — that was still, that was a major change but it was still a bit short of what some folks want. You saw, you know, hundreds of medical professionals signing a letter to the governor asking for a statewide mask mandate. He didn't go that far, but he did kind of get out of the way of the cities who'd been wanting to do this and have been urging him to allow them to, to, to impose those restrictions locally.

GOLDSTEIN: The fact that you wrote about this for The Washington Post makes me want to get the perspective nationally, Jeremy, because the fact is that it seems as though — I've been a junkie for the Sunday morning shows — and Arizona gets mentioned, certainly. But there is much more talk about how Ron DeSantis, for example, is covering things in Florida or handling things in Florida. And he has come under a lot of criticism. Gov. Ducey certainly has here in Arizona, but is there that feeling that it is known nationally — other than the numbers spiking? Is Gov. Ducey taking blame for that nationally?

DUDA: I think he is now. And I think The Washington Post story definitely helped kind of focus some attention on just how bad things had gotten in Arizona and exactly what the decisions were and the policies were that kind of allowed us to get here. And, you know, already we're certainly seeing, I think nationally some of the focus shifted over to Texas and Florida. These are two of the, I think two of the three biggest states in the country, you have these massive states where you're starting to see numbers spike there as well. So the focus shifted on there, but that could also kind of double back and put some more pressure on the governor. We've seen Gov. DeSantis and Gov. Abbott in Texas now, now starting to impose new restrictions like forcing bars to close, which is something — which is a step that hasn't been taken out here. We saw last week the governor talking about, I think, eight nightclubs in Scottsdale, you know, the state and local authorities kind of cracking the whip on them. And some of them have closed down now. I think we've seen some reports over the weekend that we're still seeing some packed bars and on Mill Avenue and obviously we're seeing a lot of partying down on the Salt River. So this might kind of double back and put some more pressure on Gov. Ducey to take some of the steps that we're now seeing in Texas and Florida.

GOLDSTEIN: That is Jeremy Duda of the Arizona Mirror. We've been talking about his recent piece for The Washington Post. Congratulations for that. And thanks for joining us, Jeremy.

DUDA: Thanks for having me.

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