“More aggressive action from the state is needed.”
Gov. Doug Ducey has shied away from enacting a statewide mask order. But now that Arizona and almost every other state are once again seeing uncontrolled spread of COVID-19, some officials are amping up the pressure on him.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego made the ask during her State of the City address Tuesday.
“I call on Gov. Ducey to issue a statewide mask order to help prevent new infections, and to keep that order in place until we have wide distribution of a new vaccine, more effective treatments, or both,” she said.
After Ducey said during a Wednesday press briefing that local mask orders are sufficient, Gallego released another statement.
“We have that policy in Phoenix, and it makes sense for our entire state,” she said.
Arizona Democratic lawmakers expressed disappointment in the governor’s leadership. Sen. Rebecca Rios called Ducey’s announcements Wednesday “half measures” that won’t do enough to slow the spread of the virus.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman also chimed in this week. On Tuesday, she shared a list of things she would like to see done in the state, including a statewide mask order, a pause on winter sports, and required testing for seasonal residents.
“These #COVID19 mitigation efforts are essential to protecting our healthcare and education professionals and institutions, including our students and families,” she tweeted.
After the governor’s press briefing, she said, “More aggressive action from the state is needed.”
Members of Congress are also putting pressure on Ducey.
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“Arizona must join the rest of the [S]outhwest and most of the U.S. and mandate masks,” Rep. Greg Stanton tweeted Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Rep. Ruben Gallego shared an article about Iowa requiring masks, tweeting “It’s time for @dougducey to step up and do the same.”
The state’s lack of a mass order has caught national attention. President-elect Joe Biden criticized Ducey’s slow approach to masks during a press conference last month.
A White House report released Sunday urged Arizona to adopt stronger mitigation measures, with a recommendation to “ensure masks at all times in public.”
The calls for a statewide mask mandate are not new—they began during the summer when Arizona saw its peak in COVID cases.
Ducey didn’t give cities, towns, and counties the authority to require masks in their localities until June 17, long after community spread began ramping up in March. Shortly after, city councils began approving measures to make masks mandatory in public spaces.
In July, a group of mayors sent a letter to Ducey saying a statewide order was necessary. The signatories were Gallego, Coral Evans of Flagstaff, Corey Woods of Tempe, Anna Tovar of Tolleson, and Regina Romero of Tucson.
Ducey has also signaled that he doesn’t plan to shut down businesses again. “Arizona’s economy is open, Arizona’s educational institutions are open, Arizona’s tourism institutions are open,” he said at a press conference last month. “The expectation is that they are going to remain open.”
The governor ended the state’s stay-at-home order, which began March 31, in early May—a time some experts said was too soon. The number of cases in the state is now mirroring early summer, before Arizona peaked at a daily case count of over 5,000 in late June and was considered the No. 1 global hotspot for the virus.