Stay home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Doug Ducey implored residents on Thursday, stopping short of re-instituting an order to enforce that message.
“I want to emphasize that you are safer at home in Arizona,” Ducey said, imploring residents to wear face masks and practice physical distancing and regular washing of hands. “There is nothing more you can do to help than to stay home.”
But he added that wearing a mask is also vitally important to slowing the spread of the virus.
“I want to ask everybody to wear a mask,” he said.
The plea to Arizonans came as the number of cases rose to more than 112,000 statewide. Nearly 2,040 deaths have been reported.
Ducey also said restaurants will have to limit indoor dining to less than 50% occupancy in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, Ducey said in his first news conference in a week-and-a-half. It is unclear how many restaurants statewide were not already limited occupancy to 50% or less, and one reporter noted that the restriction was not a new action, and was in fact prescribed by the state Department of Health Services on June 19.
His action on June 29 to again close bars and nightclubs, gyms and waterparks “is encouraging” and already having an effect to help flatten the curve, he said.
“We are seeing some better results,” he said. “The actions we took 10 days ago are making a difference. We need to see more of a difference.”
Ducey said the state will continue strengthening its guidance on COVID-19.
“Everything we do going forward” will be done to protect lives, the governor said.
“In an effort to protect lives and protect livelihoods…” he said. “We will be more prescriptive in our guidance going forward.”
Ducey said the end of his stay at home order on May 15 led two weeks later to “a rapid rise of cases” that was eventually seen by many states nationwide. He noted the pandemic is reaching into each and every part of Arizona.
“No county, no matter how rural, is spared from the virus, “ he said.
In Pinal County, more than 1,550 cases and 82 deaths have been reported. In Maricopa, there have been 430 cases in the 85138 zip code and 164 cases in 85139.
The governor also said he will launch “Project Catapult” to “dramatically expand testing in Arizona.”
“Today demand is through the roof,” he said. “Everyone wants to get a test.”
The state health department and a number of private partners are working toward a goal of 35,000 daily tests by the end of July to 60,000 daily tests by the end of August.
Ducey was asked about President Donald Trump’s threat to withhold federal education funding to those states who don’t open up their schools on time.
In response, he said he reiterated that his decision-making is not based on politics, saying everybody wants to see children back in school, but that it would not happen in Arizona until it was safe. Ducey has already delayed the opening of schools a month until the end of August
“We are going to be living with this virus for the foreseeable future,” said Ducey, noting that the fall arrival of the flu season will bring yet more challenges.
“We can’t let up.”