Ahead of Thanksgiving, governor calls for masks, social distancing amid COVID-19 crisis
PHOENIX (AP) — With Thanksgiving and the arrival of winter visitors drawing near, Gov. Doug Ducey announced new efforts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 from travelers and assist Arizonans most affected by the disease.
“I know many in our state are asking: When will it end? The answer is: That’s not on the horizon. Arizona and our nation remain in a public health emergency,” Ducey said.
In a news conference Nov. 18, Ducey and Dr. Cara Christ, director of Arizona Department of Health Services, addressed holiday travel, the steep rise in Arizona’s caseload and the issues facing schools and hospitals in months to come.
Christ also announced new Thanksgiving guidelines that encourage families to celebrate outside, reduce the size of gatherings, wear masks, maintain social distance and wash hands often — or celebrate virtually if relatives are immunocompromised or have recently been exposed to COVID-19.
“Arizonans have been good at following the guidance,” Ducey said, “But Arizonans aren’t the only ones here anymore. We have thousands of people arriving from the Midwest, East Coast and more.”
Ducey said the health department plans to assist the state’s major airports — Phoenix, Tucson and Mesa — in launching voluntary test sites to provide rapid results for travelers arriving from out of state.
“We believe that if there is testing and it’s easy and there is a rapid response, we’ll have more participation,” Ducey said.
COVID-19 case numbers in Arizona have risen to 295,334, with 3,638 new cases reported Nov. 21, state health officials reported. Since the pandemic began in March, 6,457 Arizonans have died, including 73 new deaths reported in the two-day period of Nov. 20-21.
During the news conference, Ducey called for a moment of silence and prayer for those who have died.
“We can’t stress this enough, we recommend that all Arizonans wear masks in every setting,” Christ said. Ducey, who declined to enact a statewide mask mandate last spring, said 95 percent of Arizonans are required to wear masks under local mandates, and those rules need to be followed.