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Gov. Ducey Announces No New Changes In Arizona Policy Despite Rise In COVID-19 Cases

Gov. Doug Ducey announced no new changes in state policy at a COVID-19 pandemic briefing Wednesday, despite an acknowledgement from the Arizona Department of Health Services that all the metrics tracking the pandemic are headed in the wrong direction.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases reported in Arizona continues trending upward, yet Ducey refused to issue a mask mandate and instead continued to plead with Arizonans to wear a mask.

The governor said the influx of winter visitors to Arizona would provide an additional challenge and announced a new partnership with Sky Harbor, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway and Tucson International airports "to launch testing sites, on premise, at the airport. This will allow incomers to get tested, immediately, with quick turnaround.”

The testing is not mandatory.

The governor said he was directing $25 million to boost staffing in Arizona hospitals, which are expecting an influx of patients this winter.

Ducey said the state health department will issue an emergency order for schools to require masks on campuses and buses. State schools chief Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat, has pushed the governor for a statewide mask mandate, as has Democratic Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.

But he said a statewide mandate was not necessary.

“I think the steps that we've put in place, the participation that we have, has got the maximum amount of compliance with Arizonans wearing a mask," Ducey said. "In addition, it's nearly impossible to participate in our economy anywhere without wearing a mask.”

He noted that local jurisdictions that cover 90% of the state's population have mandates in place, and state orders require masks in gyms and some other businesses.

Gallego said in a video released after Ducey's remarks that she was “deeply disappointed” he didn't order masks be worn statewide and urged all Arizonans to wear one even if the governor did not issue a mandate.

“Public health officials and physicians agree masks are the No. 1 step we can take today to protect our public health,” Gallego said. “The virus is surging in Arizona, our health care leaders are very worried about capacity. We have the chance to save lives.”

Arizona Coronavirus Cases, Deaths

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Jimmy Jenkins was a producer and senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2014 to 2021.