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PHOENIX, Ariz. — Arizona physicians today called on Gov. Doug Ducey to immediately pass statewide protocols to limit gatherings and require people to wear a mask as the COVID-19 pandemic spiked rapidly in recent days and threatens to overwhelm hospitals. On Wednesday, the death toll in Arizona passed 7,000, with 380,000 people infected.
“As physicians, we urge Gov. Doug Ducey to act now to protect Arizonans and stop dragging his feet because months of delay have only allowed the pandemic to get worse,” said Dr. Susan Hughes, MD, a family medicine specialist in Scottsdale. “By refusing to implement science-based, data-driven safety protocols now such as requiring people to mask up and limiting crowds, Gov. Ducey is willfully giving COVID-19 the upper hand. Our ICUs are filling up and people are dying, yet Gov. Ducey keeps proposing half-measures that are nothing more than Bandaids to plug a bursting dam. Gov. Ducey must take decisive action now or more people will needlessly die.”
The Arizona physicians demanded Ducey implement the following protocols immediately:
- Require all Arizonans to wear a mask in public to reduce person-to-person transmission
- Limit the size of gatherings to maximize social distancing, including restricting sports events
- Implement a stay-at-home order as a potential next step to further reduce community spread
Public health, medical and other experts have criticized Ducey for not taking meaningful steps to reduce the spread of the pandemic. Even the White House Task Force announced this week that Arizona should be doing more. “Mitigation efforts must increase,” the report says, and recommended, among other mitigation protocols, “no indoor gatherings outside of immediate households.”
“With the pandemic continuing to spike, hospitals and health workers are being stretched thin and we’re running out of the human and material resources we need to give Arizonans the care and treatment they deserve, despite extraordinary efforts,” said Dr. Sheetal Chhaya, DO, a rheumatology specialist in Phoenix. “Gov. Ducey needs to know that Arizona is at a tipping point. Other states that took action in the face of this latest pandemic wave are stabilizing their numbers, holding outbreaks in check and saving lives. Gov. Ducey can either learn from the evidence and example of others, or he can ignore what works and continue to endanger people.”
States such as Michigan that implement weeks-long pauses on indoor dining and in-person classroom learning, in addition to statewide mask protocols, are reporting a plateau in positive cases at a time when COVID-19 threatened to spike uncontrollably.
After months of resisting calls to implement safety protocols, Ducey this week said he would allow more outdoor dining and touted more funds for hospitals to hire more staff — even though hospitals have said qualified health professionals who can support care for COVID-19 patients are simply getting harder to find.
“COVID-19 is throwing missiles at us, and Gov. Doug Ducey thinks he can protect people by handing out umbrellas,” said Dr. Cadey Harrel, MD, a family physician in Tucson. “Physicians see the pain and suffering that this pandemic is causing to Arizona families every day, and what’s frustrating to us is that Gov. Ducey refuses to listen to the science, which has told us for months to wear a mask and limit crowds. Arizona has suffered through this pandemic for 10 months and Gov Ducey is still a deer caught in the headlights without a concrete public health plan. Gov. Ducey either can’t act or he chooses not to, and either explanation tells us we have a colossal failure of leadership in Arizona, and our communities are paying the ultimate price.”
Hospitals are seeing their capacity to care for patients at a breaking point as they report their ICU and other resources reaching 90 percent or more. One hospital system estimates it will reach full capacity early next week and hit 125 percent on Dec. 18. And outpatient clinics are overrun with COVID-19, disrupting access to care for other acute and chronic health problems.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Legislature was forced to close this week after Republican legislators were exposed to COVID-19 by meeting Nov. 30 with President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who tested positive for the virus just before the meeting. Giuliani, who didn’t wear a mask, was meeting with Arizona legislators to spread unfounded conspiracies of election fraud.
“Arizona needs real solutions and leadership during a deadly pandemic, yet our elected leaders are indulging in sideshows and political stunts instead,” said Dr. Harrel. “Many of our patients are seeing their lives devastated and they deserve so much more.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, December 11, 2020