Jul 23, 2020
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey Press Conference Transcript July 23
Governor of Arizona Doug Ducey held a July 23 COVID-19 press conference. Ducey extended his order to shut down bars, gyms, theaters, and more. Read his full news briefing speech here with all Arizona coronavirus updates.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev for free and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:15)
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us. I am joined today by Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. Thank you for being here Superintendent. Of course the leader of Arizona’s Department of Health Services, Dr. Cara Christ, thank you for being here Dr. Christ and the gentleman who leads our national guard and DEMA effort, General McGuire. Thanks for being here.
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:40)
I want to take everybody through the latest information around coronavirus in Arizona and then we’re going to have an education update for you as well. I want to begin by just saying thank you. Once again I want to say thank you to the healthcare workers, our doctors, our nurses, our healthcare professionals, everybody that’s on the frontline, we know how hard you’re [inaudible 00:02:05] and we’re incredibly grateful for what you’re doing in protecting Arizonans and protecting their lives and also to the business leaders and to the workforce in Arizona. This has been a challenging time for everyone. We’ve been having a lot of discussions with business leaders and leaders of employer organizations so we could make the best possible decisions and to all Arizonans. This is affecting everyone in our state. We’re in this together, we’ve asked you to do a lot and we’re going to share with you the results of where Arizona is today and it wouldn’t be happening without your partnership and participation.
Governor Doug Ducey: (02:50)
I want to remind everyone as I have over the last several weeks that you are safer at home. Regardless of the information I’m going to be able to share today, coronavirus is with us today and going forward. It’s highly contagious and it’s in every part of our state and you really help Arizona when you are at home at this point in the pandemic.
Governor Doug Ducey: (03:21)
Today’s numbers are 152,944 total COVID-19 cases. This week we have 2,751 average cases and my heart, prayers and thoughts go out to the 3,063 Arizona families who have lost a loved one to the coronavirus. All people in Arizona have been affected by COVID-19, none more so than these families and you are in our thoughts and our actions every day. In terms of Arizona’s trend today, our major metrics are headed in the right directions. COVID-like illness in emergency room has a downward trend. COVID patient, ICU and hospital bed use has a downward trend, and the percentage of positive tests in Arizona has a downward trend. Let’s run through the numbers. Blue line is COVID-like illness in Arizona, the gold line is influenza-like. If you look at the COVID-like, the blue line, you can see the two legs over the last two weeks are a dramatic drop down from 18.2% to 10.7. That’s in just two weeks that much of a decrease. Thank you to Arizonans for participating in this improvement.
Governor Doug Ducey: (05:02)
Our COVID cases by day, if you can see on the chart, our cases began to ramp up in June and escalated. Through July, they’re headed in the other direction, so for several weeks, we had a trend going in the right direction. Now we’re seeing some … I’m sorry, in the beginning of June we had a trend headed in the wrong direction. Over the last couple weeks, you see the beginnings of a trend in the right direction. We need to continue that, headed in the right direction in terms of lessening our cases by day and most specifically in terms of lowering our positivity rate in Arizona. The blue mountain data graph is the number of tests in Arizona. The gold line is our percentage positivity. We’ve been as high as 21.1%. In this last week, a downward trend of 14.5%. It’s the right direction. It’s still too high, but it is headed in the right direction.
Governor Doug Ducey: (06:16)
Let’s look at our hospital bed capacity. This does not include the 2,600 additional surge beds in our preparation for a potential worst case scenario, but what you see here is capacity. The gold is the COVID-like illness or the patients that do have COVID inside our hospitals. If you look at the course of the last six weeks, you’ll see an increase, a flattening, and the beginnings of a slight decrease. You’ll see the same thing here with our ICU beds. It does not include the surge capacity beds that we had, but for the patients that have COVID, you’ve seen an increase, a flattening, and the beginning of a slight decrease. You’ll see the same trend here for ventilators around COVID-19.
Governor Doug Ducey: (07:13)
Our testing by day, the blue line is PCR test, the orange is serology. We are over one million total tests in the state of Arizona with many more on the way. I want to thank Dr. Crow for the saliva test that ASU has innovated and will be bringing to market, Dr. Robbins for his leadership on the serology test. We do have some issues around demand for our testing. We have tests available and we want people to take advantage of that. We’re going to be talking about that a little bit later in the presentation.
Governor Doug Ducey: (07:55)
Let’s talk about the recent actions that we’ve taken in Arizona to slow the spread of this virus. We’ve basically been prohibiting large gatherings. I want to thank our mayors and county superintendents, we have nearly 90% of our state with local mask ordinances. They make a real difference. We’ve paused operations on gyms, bars, nightclubs, water parks and tubing. Superintendent Hoffman and I delayed the first day of school and we’ve reduced restaurant capacity in Arizona.
Governor Doug Ducey: (08:37)
So let’s look at how that has affected our results. Nearly three plus weeks ago, I introduced this number, the R0 number into our discussions. This is the number that represents the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person. When this number was introduced on June 29, Arizona was at 1.18, meaning for every infected person, more than one person was being infected. Over the last three weeks, Arizona has moved that number 20 basis points in the right direction. Our R0 in Arizona today is beneath one, and it’s been beneath one since July 15. So I want to thank you, that couldn’t happen without the participation of the citizens of Arizona, people are listening to the safer at home instruction, they’re limiting mobility, and it is resulting in positive numbers and direction for our state.
Governor Doug Ducey: (09:51)
This is the New York Times showing daily cases per 100,000 individuals in the state. It tracks hot spots in Arizona. If you can see from the 14 day trend, in many parts of our state and specifically in the most populous parts of our state, we’re seeing a decline, but we’re not seeing a decline everywhere. So I’d ask you to continue to stay vigilant. To know no matter whether you’re in Phoenix, Tucson or a rural area, the virus is contagious, and if we don’t do the things we should be doing, it can begin to more rapidly spread.
Governor Doug Ducey: (10:37)
These are the newly reported cases by day in Arizona according to the Times. You can see what a tough June the state of Arizona had, how it began to flatten with some of the mitigation measures we put forward several weeks ago and now we are seeing a decline in cases and we need to continue to see that. Now Arizona’s increase in cases begins in June. Our country had a flat June. Their escalation has been in July. That’s where we’ve seen our downturn.
Governor Doug Ducey: (11:15)
I said last week that for weeks and weeks, Arizona was on this page every time I looked. This is where new cases are increasing in our nation. Today there’s 42 states and territories where new cases are increasing. Last week, for the first time, we moved to where new cases are mostly the same, and this week, for the first week, we’re one of two states in the country whee new cases are decreasing. That’s where we prefer to stay and that’s where some of the actions that people are taking in the mitigation can keep us. I hear the folks that don’t want to hear from the New York Times and don’t want to hear what they have to say, so if the New York Times isn’t good enough for you, take it from MSNBC. They also show a decrease for cases in the state of Arizona, and for folks who don’t want to hear from mainstream media outlets, take it from the gold standard of excellence in public health internationally, Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. To my eye, Arizona is the greenest state in the nation. That is a downward trend over the previous three days and we’ve been there now for the last two times that we visited. That’s where we would like to stay is with a downward trend.
Governor Doug Ducey: (12:53)
This is the COVID tracking project. I think they do a very good job of simplifying things. They also let you go to a graph and whether you want to see it by state, region, nation or country, you can customize it. This is Arizona’s daily case count in red and our hospitalizations in blue. You can see very simply that we’ve hit a peak and we’ve begun to head in the right direction. Let’s continue that so that we don’t have another peak.
Governor Doug Ducey: (13:33)
It’s not unusual after we finish the presentation and turn it over for questions of someone to ask every now and again how do we trust the numbers that Arizona is presenting. First I want you to know that the COVID tracking project gives Arizona an A+ for our data information and that’s the Arizona Department of Health Services, that’s AZHealth.gov, so I know Arizonans can deal with the truth. We just want to make sure that you have the facts at the end of this press conference.
Governor Doug Ducey: (14:11)
Now let’s talk about Arizona’s new normal and what we see for the foreseeable future. We have been in the unhappy but necessary business of breaking up large adult gatherings. That’s why you’ve seen the businesses and venues here not operating or not operating in any of the traditional senses with people and fans and congregations, and that’s where we’re going to be for some time. So today we’re going to continue to press on with the strategies that are working in Arizona and continue them. So today’s announcements around mitigation are that the closure will be extended for gyms, bars, nightclubs, water parks, and tubing.
Governor Doug Ducey: (15:11)
Now people ask how do we come up with these venues for closure, and I want you to know this is the direct recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control. So when you say your decisions are going to be guided by public health and not politics or what’s popular, you listen to public health and the recommendation for these venues is closure. That’s where we are at this time. So there’s no victory lap today. There’s no celebration. We cannot let up. We need to continue to be vigilant every day in the state of Arizona, to continue pressing and to make sure that we stay focused on the fundamentals. So no victory lap, no celebration, only continued physical distancing. Washing your hands and remembering that you’re safer at home.
Governor Doug Ducey: (16:19)
In addition to that, one of the things that you can do that will make the biggest difference of course is wearing a mask and I want to thank Arizonans from all over the state, I’ve been sent pictures. I know the pictures that oftentimes make the media are the ones that are outliers but I know people all over our state and especially in large crowds and when they haven’t been able to socially distance are more often than not choosing to wear a mask and I want to thank you for doing that. We want to make sure that everybody that needs a mask has access to a mask. We want to make sure that masks are there for vulnerable Arizonans. We introduced this last week at the press conference and we’re proud to partner with Hanes to provide free cloth masks to Arizona’s most vulnerable residents and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We’ve had over 44,000 mask orders that have been received and they’re shipping now. Thank you for the order and thank you for wearing your mask.
Governor Doug Ducey: (17:24)
I also have worked very hard with local leaders, influencers and decision makers from around the state to make sure masks are seen as a good idea and something you’re doing so that we can protect lives in Arizona and protect our livelihoods. I want to thank the leaders in the advertising industry, [inaudible 00:17:46], High Noon, Off Madison, Urias, LT, R&R and HMA Public Relations. We brought them together, we challenged them to help us make wearing masks more ubiquitous and prevalent, pull the politics out of it, and make it part of what we need to do to get the pandemic behind us and we think that they’ve done some good work and there’s going to be an ad campaign. We’re going to be advocating and resourcing this campaign statewide. We’re grateful for their work and the campaign’s going to be called Tougher Than COVID. We’re going to take a look at the couple of the spots now so hopefully this will play through the viewership in the conference.
Speaker 1: (18:41)
The funny thing about boxing gloves, they protect me and protect you. Simple, which is [inaudible 00:18:50] some people won’t put on a cloth mask to fight COVID. Doesn’t make me feel weak.
Governor Doug Ducey: (19:22)
In both English and Spanish, they’re going to be on TVs, billboards and social media, and once again, I want to thank our team of marketing professionals for donating their time and giving us a really excellent effort and we’re looking forward to getting these on the air and on a billboard close to you. There’s another billboard as well. “Go ahead, tell me my mask looks weak.” I think there’s … There’s more to follow.
Governor Doug Ducey: (19:55)
So I want to switch gears, now if we can, to public K-12 education, something that’s very topical and important in Arizona. I want to thank Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman for being a partner and a leader and for prioritizing Arizona children and safe and successful education in our state. I also want to thank Representative Michelle Udall and Senator Sylvia Allen for their effort and input into the plan that we’re going to present going forward, and with that, I want to turn it over to Superintendent Kathy Hoffman. Superintendent?
Kathy Hoffman: (20:37)
Thank you Governor Ducey and good afternoon everyone. I am thankful for our continued collaboration to ensure that our school communities have the policies and supports that they need to be successful and safe in this upcoming school year. Since my first day as superintendent, I have stated my relentless optimism for public education, but I will be honest that my optimism has been tested over these past difficult months. The education community has been called on to completely rethink the system and adapt quickly to new policies and regulations. School leaders and educators are under a tremendous amount of stress as they plan for the upcoming school year and they have already done a great deal of work to plan for high quality learning opportunities for students this year, no matter where that learning will take place, but I cannot ask our educators and families to enter this school year without critical assurances, policies, and resources to set them up for safety and success.
Kathy Hoffman: (21:43)
That’s why I am proud to join Governor Ducey here today to outline additional clarity and guidance around the start of the next school year, including developing benchmarks based on public health data that schools will use to determine the start of in-person instruction, a dedication to fully fund distance learning, flexibility and clarity around onsite learning requirements for vulnerable students, continuity of pay for all educators, and critical policies that support safety and student learning. Each of those pieces are extremely complex and have taken time and partnership to work through.
Kathy Hoffman: (22:29)
I want to thank Governor Ducey and his staff for their collaboration as we work to build a path forward in these extremely uncertain times. I also want to express my gratitude to the many education stakeholders, educators, and school leaders who have offered feedback and ideas each step of the way. Today’s plan is both comprehensive and flexible and will allow schools to adapt to the unique public health needs of their communities while doing what they do best, educating our students.
Kathy Hoffman: (23:02)
While doing what they do best educating our students. I have said before that protecting our school communities is a statewide effort. I want to thank the members of our congressional delegation who have reached out to offer their advocacy for critical additional funding for schools and any upcoming relief packages. I also want to thank the Arizonans who have taken this pandemic seriously, who have made sacrifices, worn masks to protect themselves and their neighbors, physically distanced, and stayed home whenever possible. COVID-19 has impacted all of us. It has impacted my family, my staff, and my friends, my brother living in Italy was one of the first there to contract COVID-19 in February when there were still many unknowns. And thankfully he made a full recovery. My husband, a physician in residency at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, faces risks in his job every day.
Kathy Hoffman: (24:02)
COVID-19 has impacted our students. Since March, I’ve thought often of these students. Of all the students that I met during my school visits last year and wondered how their lives have changed during this crisis. I have thought especially about the students I met at Chinle High School in the Navajo Nation. During the school day, Chinle’s students have access to amazing opportunities like welding classes that make learning hands on and tangible. During basketball season, as you may have seen on Netflix, thousands of family and community members pack their high school gyms for games. And in the spring, that same gym is transformed into a celebratory space to honor their high school graduates.
Kathy Hoffman: (24:52)
Chinle’s High School building is much more than a set of classrooms. It is a community gathering space. It is a space to build the skills, minds, and hearts of the next generation. This is why I take so seriously, the opportunity for schools to safely reopen their facilities. It is the reason why I call on Arizonans to mask up, physically distance, and stay home whenever they are able. But I want to be clear that teaching and learning will happen no matter what the next school year looks like in your community. I am thrilled to join governor Ducey here today to share our guarantees on how we will support schools in providing safe instruction and critical services during this next academic year. Thank you.
Governor Doug Ducey: (25:43)
Thanks very much superintendent. So let’s run through the plan for the next school year. Arizona will be open for learning and our priorities are going to be public health and safety. We’re going to make data driven decisions. There will be parental choice, options for families in different situations, flexibility to our school leaders. And recognizing that the achievement gap and the digital divide are real and do everything we can to reduce and eliminate it. And viewing our schools as our most essential service we provide as we move forward.
Governor Doug Ducey: (26:26)
Now I also want to thank all the leaders, influencers, and decision makers, superintendents, and the superintendent. This plan was informed by your input. Well, much of the public discussion has been focused on a date certain. The focus needs to be on ensuring that Arizona students have a successful academic year. The goal is to provide our students with rigorous instruction and consistency in learning while prioritizing their health and safety. This is the greatest challenge to public education in our lifetimes. And Arizona has the opportunity to lead the nation and that superintendent Hoffman and my goal to make Arizona a model state in this situation, providing the best learning experience to kids in the safest environment during this crisis.
Governor Doug Ducey: (27:27)
So 180 days of instruction or equivalent hours will be required this year. There will be options for in-person and distance learning, and there will be teacher led distance learning that must begin by the first date of the academic school year. Children deserve a safe learning environment. This includes kids and especially kids enrolled in free and reduced lunch programs, special education students, English language learners, and foster kids. So our schools must provide free onsite learning and support services while implementing healthy and safe protocols in the required onsite learning. Our decisions will be data-driven with maximum flexibility to local school leaders, recognizing they need public health data to make decisions.
Governor Doug Ducey: (28:37)
The Arizona department of health services will develop and release public health benchmarks for the safe return of in-person teacher led classroom instruction. Local school leaders will make the determination and consider these recommendations. Face coverings, schools will develop an implement face covering policies. All adults will have a face covering on inside a school. There will be exceptions for students when they can socially distance outside in playground settings, breaks for students to take their masks off in a safe environment and other exceptions outlined by the Centers for Disease Control.
Governor Doug Ducey: (29:23)
In terms of resources, we will bring in an additional, additional investment in K-12 education from the federal CARES Act in terms of $370 million in grant dollars to schools. This will ensure budget stability, recognize additional costs in-person learning we’ll bring to districts in the school year and closing the achievement gap. This has been pointed out by many leaders in K-12 education, how real this was, how it was amplified last year. I want to thank Dr. Chad Gaston of Phoenix Unified for pointing this out in our last visit. $40 million to expand broadband, 20 million to bring in support for high need schools, six million for the teacher’s academy, a million dollars in micro grants to support innovative programs. A million dollars for the school of the deaf and blind. $700,000 for leadership development, 500,000 for tutoring kids from Teach for America. So if you have questions or you want to see more on this, you can go to your school’s website for specifics to your superintendents. This also be up on the superintendent’s website, along with the governor’s website with more to follow
Governor Doug Ducey: (30:57)
Learning starts now. And when you want to see the specifics around now, that’s where you go to your local website. Switching gears again, around getting tested, talking about the coronavirus. We know people want to get tested, we have prioritized essential workers, symptomatic and sick folks. Today we have tests available. This is CDC surge testing. These sites have been up and running since Friday, to date the wait times have been minimal, and unfortunately the demand has been low. If you look in Maryvale, our task capacity had 28% of the test that’s been administered and in South Phoenix it’s been less. So we want more to get tested at the sites. It’s completely free. There’s no ID required. Centrally located in the Valley and you’ll have the results between 48 and 72 hours. If you need more specific information, go to azhealth.gov/surgetesting. And with that, I want to turn it over to Dr. Cara Christ for a public health update. Dr. Christ.
Dr. Cara Christ: (32:22)
Thank you Governor. So as just a reminder, to make sure that everybody understands the risks that they are facing when they are leaving their home. We want you to know the risks. You want to ask yourself those questions before going out. So how many people will you interact with? We know that the more people that you interact with, especially in close contact, the higher your risk for transmission of COVID-19. Are you able to physically distance from people that is one of the biggest that will block transmission, if you can keep six feet of space between you and others. And if you’ll be indoors or outdoors. So if you are outdoors, you have more opportunity for physical distancing and you have more opportunity for better ventilation. And then what is the length of time that you’ll be interacting with people? The more time you spend with people, the more transmission of COVID-19 becomes a risk.
Dr. Cara Christ: (33:19)
So to talk about expanding testing a little bit more ASU will be expanding their saliva based testing sites. These are the free sites that they collect at. They will continue to operate out of the West Valley. We will be adding sites in Pima County, Coconino County, and La Paz County. And then we have been working with additional providers to expand testing or to expand their capacity. And that includes Embry Women’s Health, CVS pharmacies. The federally qualified health centers will be receiving grants to provide testing at their centers. We’re working with a quality health to expand their testing in partnership with CLPC as well as banner has expanded the number of tests that they can perform. And they do have sites that are available.
Dr. Cara Christ: (34:12)
We’re hearing a lot about the lab turnaround times and how long it is taking those labs to get results back to individuals. And from a public health standpoint, this is a frustrating point because we have a limited time in which we can react. We can do the case investigation and stop further transmission. So to give everyone a little bit of information, we have 28 commercial university or public laboratories that can report to us electronically. We call this ELR, there are other operating labs that do not report electronically. Those are not included in some of the statistics, because we don’t have the insight of when they received it and when they were able to process it and report it. The current statewide turnaround for ELR labs is about 5.2 days, but the individual labs will range from same day to on average seven and a half days.
Dr. Cara Christ: (35:11)
That’s the time from the collect, to the time that they report get that result. Obviously since 7.5 is an average. We do know that there are days that are longer. We’re getting a lot of questions about the viability of the samples and how long that they can be stored. So they can be refrigerated for several days, between three and five days, depending on what type of media they are in and how they are collected. They can be frozen at your regular freezer temperature. So minus 20 degrees for a week, if you put them at minus 70 or minus 80, which we refer to as a deep freeze, they can be frozen indefinitely and rewarmed, and then tested. The long turnaround times like I said, do impact public health because we want to be able to connect with the people. We want to give them the instructions on how to prevent transmitting COVID-19 to others. And we want to get in touch with their contacts so that we can break that transmission chain.
Dr. Cara Christ: (36:10)
So over the last few days, we have been working very closely with Sonora Quest, as I’m sure everyone is aware, we have provided them with funding to bring on an additional machine. This is a platform that won’t be impacted by shortages of reagents. They actually believe they will have the first line up of that new platform this afternoon with additional lines, each line adds capacity, and they should have up to three lines available after this weekend. So that will increase the capacity. And they have told us, they expect to have the entire backlog of 61,000 tests cleared by July 31st. And that should not be an issue going forward.
Dr. Cara Christ: (36:55)
So to talk about a couple of the initiatives that we announced the last week on our hospital resources, we have implemented the staffing initiative. We were able to secure that contract with Vizient. We have placed a request for 584 staff to be allocated to hospitals in every region of the state. We are prioritizing rural hospitals that have high transfer to our metropolitan high acuity hospitals. And then we’re prioritizing our large hospitals that receive a number of those transfers. Staffing at some of those sites starts this week.
Dr. Cara Christ: (37:32)
And then the post acute care initiative. So this week we signed a contract with three Ensign facilities to provide post acute beds at nursing care institutions. These are those step down people who no longer need to be in a hospital setting, but still need to go someplace either they to remain isolated because they are COVID positive or they need additional care and cannot go home. Those transfers to those beds will be coordinated through the Arizona surge line. They will be… We are holding those beds on behalf of the state and then working with the provider to fill those beds. We’re continuing to identify additional partners along the whole spectrum of post acute facilities. And then we do have now additional providers reporting into what we call the pact dashboard every day, so that our discharge planners at our hospitals, if they have someone who is ready to go, can find a spot for them outside of the hospital. Thank you, governor.
Governor Doug Ducey: (38:35)
Thank you very much, Dr. Christ, thank you to your team. I know how hard they’ve been working at the Department of Health Services. And with that, I want to turn it over to major general Mick McGuire to give us an update on all the good work that DEMA is doing.
Maj. Gen Mick McGuire: (38:49)
Thanks governor Ducey, and thanks for superintendent Hoffman for joining us today. I just want to give a quick update. We continue to support the two FEMA, HHS surge sites, as the governor mentioned in Maryvale and South mountain. For all the citizens out there, those sites we’ll end that drive through opportunity next Tuesday. HHS and FEMA has agreed to allow us to the additional capacity to be surged into Yuma Pima County and Coconino County as required based on the request of those counties. And then additionally, we continue to look forward to extending the mission on the food supply stuff and we should have answer back to the media by next week on a federal decision on extension of the food bank mission and other things we’re doing around the state.
Governor Doug Ducey: (39:40)
Thanks so much general McGuire. And thanks for all the good work that all the people at DEMA are doing and the brave women and men of the national guard as well. They have been helpful at every turn and all of Arizona is grateful. So our plan of action moving forward is that we’re going to continue to take a responsible approach. The decisions from my office will be guided by public health. We’re going to ramp up the testing to identify infection in Arizona. You can see the investment around increasing lab capacity and the additional collection sites. We want to provide relief to health officials and contact tracing to contain the spread and we’ll measure the efficacy of our mitigation strategies.
Governor Doug Ducey: (40:26)
Metrics to watch, we’ve had a downward trending cases, but we are going to continue to focus on additional testing. So with that, there may be more cases on a horizon. Please let’s focus on the percent positivity. That’s a number that we want to drive down. We’re in a position today where we have capacity where people that are curious can get a test, and we want to encourage you to get a test and schedule a test. You can go to azhealth.gov for more information.
Governor Doug Ducey: (40:58)
Also that mobility and R-naught number is something we want to keep below one. If you make good decisions and are responsible, stay safer at home, that’s helpful there. And of course we want to make certain as we have the entire time. And this is why, again, I want to say thank you to our doctors and nurses and health care professional and hospital leaders. We have had capacity in Arizona. We’ve been able to bring capacity to Arizona and our commitment is we will maintain capacity in the state of Arizona. So the next steps are wear a mask, wash your hands, physically distance. And when you can stay home, please wear the mask. The virus is widespread. And remember you’re safer at home. And with that, we’ll open it up for questions, Patrick.
We’re going to start Peter from KTAR.
Good afternoon. Dr. Christ, two weeks ago, you were on our air on KTAR saying you were looking for 10% positivity rate or less, of course, to possibly reopen the schools. I don’t know, we’re away from a date specific target at this point. Does that number still stand with you? Would that still be helpful to encourage districts or to show districts that it might be safe to resume in classroom learning?
Dr. Cara Christ: (42:19)
We will be taking a look and determining those benchmarks. It likely will be a number of different benchmarks, including a decrease in the positivity. The World Health Organization has indicated that you want below 5% to indicate that there is less community transmission. We do want to see that drive down, but we likely won’t put a very specific target on that to allow for flexing
Still not looking for a specific number then I guess is like you said, it’s a mixture of things.
Dr. Cara Christ: (42:46)
Yeah. So there’s going to be a number of benchmarks that we are going to be looking at and providing as data points.
Very good. And governor, there was a piece of legislation moving through the house that had got approved regarding protecting businesses and other entities from lawsuits related to COVID-19. It never made it out of the Senate. Would you consider calling a special session on this topic and perhaps some others related to it?
Governor Doug Ducey: (43:12)
There’s discussion right now at the federal level around this limiting of liability that may satisfy what the desire of the house and Senate were in Arizona. I want to see where that package comes together before we’d make a decision around that next step.
Waiting for the feds then. Okay.
Governor Doug Ducey: (43:34)
Yeah. We want to see what the feds are going to do. They’re going to do something and it’s going to be likely this next week. And then we’ll have a better line of sight as to what might be needed in Arizona. We provided input from the National Governor’s Association on that. And I sent a letter to our delegation. So I think people can see what’s important to me and I think to the state of Arizona.
We got Andrew from [inaudible 00:00:44:03].
Similarly, I wanted to ask about Congress has not extended yet the $600 in additional unemployment benefits that a lot of Arizonans are depending on. And some of the reports we’ve seen have indicated that they might extend those benefits partially. So cut $600 to 300 or 200. Are you considering anything at a state level like raising the benefit cap from $ 240 a week or increasing the earned income disallowance to alleviate that burden on Arizona’s if that becomes the case?
Governor Doug Ducey: (44:38)
So Andrew, well, of course, we’re working with our delegation. We sent a letter to our delegation, shared widely with Congress earlier this week, the benefits go through this week we are in right now. We know that Congress never gets anything done until the last minute. So anything that’s going to come from the state would come after we have a better idea of what’s happening there. But where Arizona has been able to navigate through this in terms of putting our safety net out, making sure no one has fallen through the cracks, through a lot of displacement was a partnership with our federal government in doing that. We’ll need that to continue to do that.
So we’re not looking at anything of state policy?
Governor Doug Ducey: (45:26)
I want to see what Congress is going to do. And they’re going to do something this week.
You previously said that you wanted a public process to decide the fate of a confederate monument in front of the state capital. Your administration has now allowed that monument to be removed by a private organization. Why did your administration listen to the United Daughters of the Confederacy in taking this down now, but not the NAACP when it was calling for this step years ago?
Governor Doug Ducey: (45:50)
I want to say, I continue to want a public process. A public process wasn’t available and the legislature was not in session. The decision was basically left to the Department of Administration.
Governor Doug Ducey: (46:02)
… decision was basically left to the Department of Administration.
Governor Doug Ducey: (46:05)
Can I finish the answer, please?
Sure, but do you just [crosstalk 00:46:08]?
Governor Doug Ducey: (46:08)
Can I finish the answer?
Governor Doug Ducey: (46:11)
Okay, is it my turn?
Yes, go for it.
Governor Doug Ducey: (46:14)
The Daughters of the Confederacy is the organization that gifted the memorial to the state. They wrote a letter to the state and asked for it back so it could be repaired. They would like to put it in a separate location, not on public property. They were the individuals that gifted it to the state, they asked for it back, we granted their wish.
But did you disagree with the Department of Administration’s decision to do that?
Governor Doug Ducey: (46:42)
But it wasn’t a public process like you said [inaudible 00:46:45]?
Governor Doug Ducey: (46:45)
There wasn’t a public process available.
Speaker 3: (46:48)
We’re going to [inaudible 00:46:49], and then we’ll come over here [inaudible 00:46:56].
Speaker 4: (46:58)
So I wanted to get some more clarification about the schools coming back to sessions. You mentioned there was a require onsite learning part of your presentation with the 180 days as well. What will that mean exactly with schools that choose to do completely online learning for the semester at least?
Governor Doug Ducey: (47:16)
Kathy Hoffman: (47:19)
We fully expect all of our schools to start distance learning within the next couple of weeks, so that 180 day or equivalent instructional hours can be met through distance learning, through online learning. The onsite learning requirement in this executive order we’ve actually provided a little more clarity around that from two executive orders ago when that was first in the prior executive order. The intent behind this requirement for onsite learning is that we do have students who for them school is the safest place for them to be. We have at-risk student populations or students who need very special services that only their school can provide.
Kathy Hoffman: (48:03)
Some of the clarification that we provide through this new executive order is for example that a district doesn’t have to have that at every school. It could be one school per district that provides that onsite learning. It could also be through a community partner like the Boys and Girls Club has stepped up and said that they’re willing and eager, enthusiastic to help serve students as well. We wanted to make that really clear that the intent behind that requirement was to make sure that kids who really need it have a safe place to go.
Speaker 4: (48:35)
Okay, thank you. I get that now. I also have a followup about the benchmarks. You guys weren’t specific about what that’s going to look like. With schools about to start in just a few days, few weeks, when can we expect to get a complete list of what you guys will have as a metric to give to districts to know that it is safe, that they can do the decisions based upon this because there wasn’t really anything mentioned about that today.
Kathy Hoffman: (49:04)
Do you want me to start it and then …
Dr. Cara Christ: (49:05)
Kathy Hoffman: (49:06)
Okay, I’ll start. In the executive order the Department of Education will be working with the Department of Health Services and our County Health offices to develop this framework by August 7. It could be even sooner, but we wanted to give all of us some time to be looking at different benchmarks and data points and come to consensus of that. And then the idea is for our local school leaders like school governing boards and Superintendents to have a framework to use and to be working in conjunction, in close collaboration with their County Health Departments.
Speaker 4: (49:39)
Could you just specify what would that look like maybe, what points in those benchmarks?
Dr. Cara Christ: (49:45)
We’ll be taking a look and reviewing what other states are using as benchmarks as well as making sure that they’re consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and the White House Task Force. We will be bringing that together. The team’s already started on that.
Speaker 4: (50:03)
Okay, all right, thanks.
Speaker 3: (50:04)
Thank you, Governor. Billy [Harfush 00:50:05], iHeartRadio. Going in a little bit of a different direction you’ve probably heard there’s been some good news about a possible vaccine. As you know, there’s a significant percentage of the population in this state that are anti-vaxxers. They’ll just never take the vaccine. There’s also some people that are on the fence. I wanted to know your plan for educating the people of Arizona and to ensure that people actually take this vaccine. And one quick question for you, Superintendent Hoffman. Should schools, will schools be required to report COVID-19 positive cases, and that’s coming from parents across the state. They want to know if there’s a case in their kids’ schools. Thank you.
Governor Doug Ducey: (50:43)
So Billy, I appreciate the question, and I remain hopeful and optimistic as well. At the same time I’ve got to deal with the facts that are in front of us. I would welcome the challenge of helping educate Arizonans as to why this vaccine would make our lives safer and healthier if and when it’s ready. I think we all know what a long shot any vaccine like this is. We’ve got the smartest, most innovative medical professionals in the world in our nation, but if that is something that we would have available to us that’s something that I think you’d see a full court press across the board to make certain that the maximum amount of our people were able to have the immunity to this virus.
Kathy Hoffman: (51:39)
In terms of reporting, our schools still have to follow HIPAA requirements and things like that, so we have been working closely with the Department of Health Services in developing … The Department of Health Services has been developing protocols for our school leaders so they know exactly what steps to take when there is a positive case in the school community, whether it’s a student or a teacher or staff.
So if there is a positive case will the parents and the kids in that specific school know there was a positive case? That’s the question.
Dr. Cara Christ: (52:08)
They are working on those protocols. There usually does require notification if there is a disease in a classroom that could be spread, so we’ll be working on that as part of the guidelines.
Speaker 3: (52:20)
[inaudible 00:52:20] Nicole and then Ali [inaudible 00:52:22].
Hi everyone. Governor, I just want to ask why do you sit here and tell us things are positive? You showed us MSNBC, New York Times, John Hopkins. Why are you not showing us local data like ASU, they’re doing model predictions as well and tracking our cases-
Governor Doug Ducey: (52:46)
Nicole, I didn’t say that things were positive. I said these are the facts, these are the data metrics that we have, that there’s no victory laps, that there’s no celebration, that we’ll continue to be vigilant.
You said that cases are going down.
Governor Doug Ducey: (53:03)
And part of the reason that I show other independent, and sometimes adversarial sources, is because of exactly what you’re asking right now. Everything that is put up here is informed by the Arizona Department of Health Services, which from the COVID tracking project has an A+ for its data. I present the facts.
Governor, how can you say that cases are going down when there’s a 62,000 backlog at one of the state’s largest labs. Testing is dropping. How can you make data informed decisions without that incomplete data? And how did that backlog get this bad? And if we’re not testing and turning tests then there’s not cases, right?
Governor Doug Ducey: (53:56)
We are testing. We have over a million tests that have been conducted in Arizona. Our cases are going down by our data and by independent sources data. Our cases are going down. Now there is a backlog. That is also a fact. The private labs have been swamped, and we are in a bit of a dilemma. One is, Dr. Christ is going to talk about the efforts and the resources we’re providing to the private labs so that we get those facts and that they go into the positivity rate. And then the other issue that we have is we don’t have the demand for the tests. We have several weeks where the demand is off the charts and cars are parked around the block. Today we have two sites that are operating between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. They’re wide open, you don’t need an appointment, and no one’s going through them. So we’re encouraging people to get a test. That’s a test where you’ll get a result much more quickly, and if you want to talk about the backlog at Sonora Quest I’d be grateful.
Dr. Cara Christ: (55:03)
I know you addressed it.
Governor Doug Ducey: (55:04)
Let’s answer the question.
Dr. Cara Christ: (55:05)
So with the backlog that is something that we’re working on. We always fill back to the date of collection because we believe that that’s the closest evidence to when somebody was sick is the day that they go and get that lab drawn if they had symptoms. It will be back dated. What we tend to see is as it goes back into the date that it was it actually adds to the number of tests, but then the percent positivity decreases because we do that not only for positive labs but for negative labs that are put in.
Okay, well testing has-
Governor Doug Ducey: (55:34)
And we would like to see nothing more than our positivity decrease, so we are very eager to get those samples run.
And Governor, the testing has gone down in seven days compared to the week before.
Governor Doug Ducey: (55:46)
That’s accurate, Nicole. Like I said, there’s that demand.
Okay Governor, well what about trust then, how are parents supposed to trust what you are coming up with right now with our children lives are on the line right now, survivors of those who have died, those in nursing homes, businesses? They say you’re incapable of managing this pandemic. Why should they trust you to move forward with these metrics? And Superintendent Hoffman, do you trust Governor Ducey moving forward with making sure these are data based real metric systems moving forward?
Governor Doug Ducey: (56:20)
Kathy Hoffman: (56:22)
We’re all faced with making extremely difficult decisions, so I’m not here to question Governor Ducey’s decisions, but what I will say about trusting the data, that’s why it was so important to us to be working with the Department of Health Services and also the Country Health Departments in coming up with a plan together of what data points to be looking at and not just one data point so that we can look at the whole context at the local level when we develop this framework.
Governor Doug Ducey: (56:51)
I’m working with the subject matter professionals, the experts, and across the aisle, and I’ll continue to do it.
Speaker 3: (56:57)
We’re going to go to Ali next, thank you.
Good afternoon everyone. Three questions, one’s really simple, how does any of this affect private or religious schools? Does any of this affect any of them?
Governor Doug Ducey: (57:11)
Does that affect them indirectly then?
Governor Doug Ducey: (57:15)
It indirectly oftentimes, or at least in past scenarios they’ve looked to state guidelines and guidance to inform their decisions, but they have options.
Okay. You also said twice during your presentation that you’re being guided by health, not by politics. You talked about that in terms of leaving the bars closed and the gyms closed. That same CDC report also says you should take restaurant capacity down to 25% and take group sizes down from 50 to 10. Why aren’t you following that if you’re following just public health?
Governor Doug Ducey: (57:50)
We are following the public health, and the directive or recommendation around a closure directive is much different than limiting in terms of occupancy. At least in discussions with the leaders on the task force in Washington, D.C. the objective around those numbers is social distancing. And you can see some of the issues that we’ve had here in Arizona and some of the other Western states including California and Texas their climates are different than ours. Their options for some of their venues are unique to ours. Our guidance has been so that we can keep the social and physical distancing, and like I said we’ve seen the numbers going in the right direction. We continue to monitor it, but we have options if we need to change.
Okay, then really quickly sort of following up on Andrew’s question about the monuments, we’ve gotten rid of two of them. There is a monument sitting on state property at the state cemetery in Sierra Vista that honors the Confederate soldiers for fighting for the right of self determination, which to a certain extent meant the right to enslave other people. Are you prepared to force removal of that from a state cemetery of having that on state land?
Governor Doug Ducey: (59:14)
I’m going to stay with the policy that I’ve had through this. I want to see a public process. When the Legislature comes back we’ll have the opportunity to put a public process forward.
But you have the public … The Department of Veteran Services exists within your agency. DVS could set up public hearings. They could do that now. You seem to be wanting to kick the can down the road on this one.
Governor Doug Ducey: (59:39)
No, I don’t want to kick the can down the road. I’m focused on coronavirus right now. This is a question that you’ve been asking me for well over a year, and I’ve stayed to the same policy that I am not unilaterally going to make decisions on monuments and memorials. There should be a public process.
Speaker 3: (01:00:00)
[crosstalk 01:00:00]. We’re going to go with Angela Gonzales from Phoenix Business Journal. Angela, go ahead. You might need to unmute yourself there, Angela. We can’t hear you.
Sorry. Now can you hear me?
Speaker 3: (01:00:18)
Yes we can.
Can you hear me okay? Yes?
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:00:20)
Okay, thank you. Thank you for taking my question. Just a couple questions around the schools. How will funding be allocated to the schools? Does each school have to apply for this grant money? And then also if we can throw this one in too, if COVID cases go up for any of the schools will the state shut down schools one by one in particular?
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:00:49)
I’ll answer the resource question and let the Superintendent as well. The idea is that we want to fully fund out schools, our teachers, and our educators. We also know there’s been additional funding necessary, so we’re working with CARES Act’s dollars, flexible funds. And schools that follow the guidelines that we are presenting are going to have access to these funds. And I also know at least as I was coming into this press conference I saw discussion around additional funding from Congress as well, so that’s a possibility. And if you want to talk about some of the guidelines and Dr. Christ on the public health side of things. Thank you, Angela.
Kathy Hoffman: (01:01:37)
For the guidelines as far as for when schools open or close, we’ve already seen many of our governing boards make very difficult decisions about when they want their schools to open. As you’ve seen many of our school districts have already opted that they will not offer in-person instruction until October. We do expect that schools will have different start dates depending on local circumstances, and what we’re going to do, what we’re committed to doing that is in this executive order is creating a framework that identifies the different data points that they can use with their county health officials to determine whether or not schools should be open for in-person instruction.
Kathy Hoffman: (01:02:18)
There could be scenarios in the future where a school could open for in-person instruction, and then if there happens to be another outbreak in that area they may need to close again. So that is a possibility, and that was actually included in part of our roadmap for reopening schools that we outlined different types of recommendations for different scenarios, and that’s one of the scenarios that we accounted for.
Okay, thank you. Would that mean that the state would shut down a school or would the school just close their doors on their own? How would that work?
Kathy Hoffman: (01:02:49)
Our local governing boards have the authority to make that decision. I would expect it would be the local governing boards making a decision in conjunction with their local county health offices.
Speaker 3: (01:03:01)
We’re going to come back to the room here [inaudible 01:03:03]. I’m going to go to JJ Cooper from AP.
JJ Cooper: (01:03:11)
Thanks. We’re coming up on the end of summer vacation, and we’re just hearing that it’s going to be another two weeks or so before we get the metrics that schools can use to make these decisions. Why aren’t those available now or sooner given that we’ve known this problem was coming for as long as it’s been out there? And then given the extreme delays in testing and measuring what’s going on in the community how confident are you that those metrics will have reliable, accurate, up-to-date data for the school districts to use?
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:03:46)
Thanks, JJ, and I think it’s a fair question. There’s a framework that already exists. Things have changed quite a bit in the last four weeks. I think we’ve been able to see that. When we first had our meeting with the Superintendents after the end of last school year all of the preparations were about going back into school in the traditional setting. Through the course of the discussions we’ve really found that we’ve got a very large constituency that no matter what in this setting, and I mean no matter what even back in the beginning they don’t feel comfortable or feel safe and likely do not want to go back into schools until there’s a vaccine.
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:04:35)
We also have a very large constituency that is ready to go back into school in person tomorrow and not concerned about anything that’s in front of us. And then we also have a very large constituency that has nowhere else to go except to the school. Their parent may be one of our frontline healthcare workers inside the hospital, and they have to go to work. So we’re trying to enhance the guidance, to answer all the questions just like some of the questions that we face today around what if and what happens and what if this scenario happens in a school, what if a student, what if a teacher, what if a classroom, what a cohort. You can really go down one after another. We’re letting the subject matter experts from public instruction and the Department of Health Services along with the Centers for Disease Control do that. What we laid out for you today was that we’re going to have a safe and successful school year in the state of Arizona with flexibility, ample resources, and there will be hybrid options available.
JJ Cooper: (01:05:51)
For the group that you mentioned that won’t feel comfortable going back to school until there’s a vaccine do you foresee there ever being a point where they are told that they need to go back to school before there’s a vaccine?
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:06:02)
Arizona has always been a state that’s respected parental choice. And I want to really hand it not only to our leaders and our Superintendents and our teachers, but I think as much as I wish we didn’t have to deal with what happened in the spring I think our state had a leap frog forward in terms of innovations and teachers that have embraced distance learning. And Chad Guston in our last meeting said Phoenix Union and where it is right now has set an objective at least for the first quarter or first semester that they’re going to be the best in the world at distance learning. I think having a kid in a classroom is a great thing. In this situation somebody that’s got an underlying health condition or a weakened immunity we would never force them to do something that would be against their safety, and we would want to provide options for them. Do you have anything to add, Superintendent?
Kathy Hoffman: (01:07:09)
The only thing I would add is in these conversations over the past couple weeks you asked what changed, so a couple of weeks ago it was more a question of when can our schools open, when can we all open together and get back into the classroom? And at this time we don’t know when that date is. It’s not reasonable to set a date because as you’ve seen what’s happened is then in a couple weeks we might have another press conference like this and set another date. So we really wanted to avoid that type of situation because every single time we have this type of announcement for our schools they’re scrambling to figure out what’s the new policy, what do I need to do now, and communicate that to their parents and families.
Kathy Hoffman: (01:07:51)
So when we put this executive order together it was really important to us to actually go back to the roadmap and think about all the different scenarios that our schools might face in this upcoming year and be prepared for significant amount of time doing distance learning and give those flexibilities and assurances so that our schools are empowered to go for learning to start, which is what we want. We want them to start connecting with our kids across the state. So I’m back to my optimism that this will be a durable plan that we can use the framework and the public health data rather than setting a date, which could change again.
JJ Cooper: (01:08:31)
Just really quick, the AP reported yesterday that immigrant children as young as one are being detained in a hotel in Phoenix before they’re sent back to their home countries. This goes around the standard process for unaccompanied minors coming across the border. Do have thoughts on this practice happening in Arizona? Are you comfortable with it?
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:08:51)
This is the first that I’ve heard of that. I’d have to know the details and the facts before I commented.
Speaker 3: (01:08:57)
Morgan Lowe from 3 TV next. Morgan, go ahead.
Patrick. Thanks Governor …
Thanks governor. So I’m a little slow. We don’t have a date set now for in person class. Is that accurate? Is there a scenario where it could begin August 17th? Was the target date before?
Kathy Hoffman: (01:09:20)
I would say at this point it’s unlikely that schools will be ready to start their full in-person instruction on August 17th, but we will have the onsite learning opportunities available that soon. So that will be where schools are developing plans for their at risk student populations or for serving essential workers children. And so there will be continued services starting at that time, but in terms of, we’re not setting a statewide date for when school will start, we’re recreating the framework so that our schools can make data informed decisions.
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:09:54)
Okay. And I also want to say Morgan, if I can, because there’s been a couple of questions around the date. The date was something that the superintendent and I were using to make announcements about what was happening. But school in Arizona has never started on a certain date. We’ve had all kinds of flexibility and option from schools that go through the summer that take fall break. And this differs really by governing board and by region in the state. So the idea around the date is we wanted to pull that off the table and give the guidelines where the things that people love about Arizona education, the flexibility, the parental choice, and the additional resources while allowing the people that know how to get it done and get it done best at the local level to have those flexibilities.
And second part of this question. Aside from making sure they have a safe and healthy learning environment, we are taking potentially 400,000 to 800,000 people who have been on lockdown for four months and we are going to put them back into the environment. They’re going to be around each other, potentially, depending on how many are in person. Is part of this process of getting it ready figuring out how we’re going to deal with potentially another big spike in cases? Because this has been a protected population. Now they’re going to be out there. Are you concerned that we’re going to see a big spike regardless of how careful schools are?
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:11:41)
Do you want to talk about that from a public health perspective and the situation that children are in versus are vulnerable, please?
Dr. Cara Christ: (01:11:51)
Sure. Governor, so Morgan, when we look at bringing back any kind of group, we do expect to see some transmission of COVID. One of the biggest things that we have been planning for this entire time has been the upcoming influenza season, because we know that that’s also going to cause a spike. What the data is currently showing is that kids under 10 don’t transmit COVID as effectively as adults do. So that would limit that as we’re watching what’s going on with daycares that have been operating, as we’ve been watching around what’s been going on around the world, so that will have less of an impact, but we will continue to monitor. And there will be benchmarks that we will look at to determine if it does look like it’s increasing and we’ll be monitoring all of those metrics that the governor pointed out.
And then just really just one final thing. We are changing the way kids are going to be learning at Somerton. And Hoffman, are you concerned that our state of children aren’t going to get the education this year that they would have gotten a year ago?
Kathy Hoffman: (01:12:58)
Yes, the story I mentioned about Chinley High School students, when they go to school, they have the opportunity for welding, for chemistry, for music, all these opportunities that kids do not have at home, which is why it’s our shared goal to get to a point where schools will open and we’re not there yet. And so every day that our schools are not fully open and serving students in the way where they have wraparound supports is a setback for us academically and for social services and all the services that our schools provide.
Kathy Hoffman: (01:13:29)
So I want to acknowledge that our educators are going above and beyond to design completely a complete new system of online and distance learning. And they’re doing everything they can to connect with kids and families, whether that’s calling them or online conference, the video conferencing and doing everything they can to connect with their families. But it’s never going to be the same as having all kids coming into a classroom and having all the opportunities that our schools provide. And we know there’s differences in family resources. So some of our families don’t have internet. Don’t have computer skills. Don’t maybe have parents that don’t speak English. There’s just completely different types of home situations that I am very concerned about.
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:14:14)
Morgan, I would add to the question, am I concerned about our kids and the education they’re going to receive this year? Of course. That’s why we’re working so hard. I’m putting a plan as the superintendent said, that is durable regardless of what is in front of us, so that we can maximize our children’s education, make it as successful and safe as possible. I am confident that our kids did not get that experience last year. I think our teachers did everything they possibly could getting thrown the curve ball that came their way. But our kids have some makeup to do through no fault of their own, likely around math and reading and other things. And the other question was, am I concerned about a spike in the future? And of course, that’s why we begin every day with the numbers, we close every day with the numbers, we’re being so vigilant around this.
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:15:17)
I think the challenges that we have in Arizona aren’t all that much different than pretty much any other state in the country. And this is where it really is on leaders and local leaders and teachers and parents and superintendents to be innovative and creative and flexible in figuring this out. And that’s how the plan was written to not only provide the best that we could put together, but to allow others to add to that plan, to make it better, and then to share those best practices across the state and across the country.
Speaker 5: (01:15:55)
We’re going to keep going. We’re going to go to [inaudible 01:15:55] next. We’re going to go to Ben Giles from KJZZ. Ben, go ahead.
Ben Giles: (01:16:02)
All right. Thank you all. Two quick questions. First, we’ve talked a lot about guidelines for schools to return to in-person learning situations. Are there going to be guidelines for what happens if there is a spread of COVID in a school? Guidelines for how to pull the plug and how to operate if things go haywire.
Dr. Cara Christ: (01:16:25)
Yes. So that will be part of that. They’ll work with their local county health departments. So county health departments are always working with their schools in influenza season, when there are outbreaks of disease, there will be guidelines around that.
Speaker 5: (01:16:46)
Ben did you have one more?
Ben Giles: (01:16:49)
Yes. Governor, you also talked about a discouraging statistic that it seems the demand for testing has gone down, even as you’ve worked with state officials and other private organizations to expand testing opportunities. I want to open this question to Dr. Christ as well. What do you attribute to the lower demand and how maybe can you inspire confidence in Arizonans to go out there and get tested?
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:17:20)
Well, I’d be speculating, but I think it could be a number of things. One, testing has been a huge challenge in Arizona. The testing in terms of supply chain and national resources was really going to many other places because the other places were the hot spots for so long. Arizona was really not in harm’s way, writ large, the way the Eastern seaboard was for March and April and May and June. As we began to have our increase in cases and increase in testing, a lot of our wait times went longer, and we’ve worked very hard to make it more convenient for people to get a test.
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:18:07)
And then in addition, sometimes the return has been too long. So we think that we’ve addressed each of those in their turn. They remain a challenge. And I think oftentimes when cases are spiking and it may be more topical in the news, there’s more demand from people that don’t feel sick or symptomatic. And we’ve had a couple of weeks of improving numbers and it’s taken away some of that demand. And we want to find a way that we can get more people tested, people that are feeling sick or symptomatic or in a vulnerable situation or a frontline worker. We’re going to prioritize tests for them. But we want the curious now to also be tested. It’s one way that we think we’ll be able to further open our economy, make better decisions about things that you get involved in. And we’re also quite certain that it will lower our positivity score as well. Dr. Christ.
Dr. Cara Christ: (01:19:07)
That was perfect. I think I agree with everything you said.
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:19:10)
Speaker 5: (01:19:10)
We’re going to try to get to a few more here as you’re wrapping up. We’re going to go to Josh from 12 News.
Governor and Dr. Christ. With respect to the present positive number, the seven day average for the state is around 24%, a 30 day average, 25%. That’s leading the nation. That number problematic for experts, because again, it shows that there’s widespread community being impacted by the virus. Wouldn’t that number alone cause you pause and have you press the brake on reopening businesses in general and possibly even shutting down the state again?
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:19:53)
Well, we look at the number over the course of time. Like I said, we have been prioritizing people that are sick, symptomatic and working in these settings. We’re confident yesterday’s test, the previous week’s test, what we’ve seen in terms of the trend, that we’re making responsible, incremental decisions. And we have shut some things down that have been the CDCs recommendation. Of course we don’t want to do that. We felt that that was necessary in which to do that. And then the fact that we can expand testing logically, you should see a decrease in terms of positivity and much of what we’re talking about is still several weeks out. So oftentimes we have folks come in and say, “Why aren’t you letting us know further in advance?” I mean, this has been a dynamic and fluid situation. It’s changed. It’ll continue to change. Do you have anything more?
Well, just to add to that though, again, that number being problematic and you look over the last 30 days leading the country when it comes to a 25% positive rate. So Dr. Christ, knowing, as an expert, and knowing that number, how has that played into the decisions that you’ve made and the conversations that you guys are having across industrial platforms, including education?
Dr. Cara Christ: (01:21:17)
So we are looking at the percent positivity, like I said, we are looking at it from the previous weeks. So as the percent positivity is reported, you want it reported against the timeframe that it was actually taken, not the time that it’s reported to the health department. And so that may be one of the difference between the seven day moving average, as well as like what you see on our website. So we are monitoring that, that is a very important factor. And one of the reasons that we made the recommendation not to reopen the bars and not to reopen some of those businesses that had closed down, that was also the recommendation for why we wanted to have the benchmarks so that schools could feel comfortable. We’re not recommending that they open next week. We know that we will have the data that should be on the backlog, should be cleared by the 31st. So we should have all available data. We’ll be able to use that as we develop the benchmarks and our local health departments and our local schools can make that decision.
We’re getting inundated when it comes to workplace outbreaks, people getting sick at a workplace, and then it’s spreading through coworkers, especially with some essential workers. What are your guidelines, specific guidelines for how the workplace should deal with something like that?
Dr. Cara Christ: (01:22:39)
So are you asking about what guidelines we would put in place to prevent the spread in? I’m sorry.
Yeah. We’re getting inundated with a number of workplaces across industrial platforms that are dealing with workplace outbreaks.
Dr. Cara Christ: (01:22:51)
Okay. We have recommendations on our website if you go to AZhealth.gov. It’s a lot of those same type of recommendations. So making sure that people can physically distance, that they’re wearing masks when it is safe to do so, that they are encouraging people to stay home when they’re sick and they have flexible leave policies so that people can do that.
What about an employer that says you can’t stay home?
Dr. Cara Christ: (01:23:15)
We would recommend that they have flexible workplace or leave policy.
Has DHS experienced a workplace outbreak?
Speaker 5: (01:23:24)
We got to keep moving Josh.
Has DHS experienced a workplace outbreak?
Dr. Cara Christ: (01:23:26)
Just like any other business, we’re not immune to COVID.
Is that a yes?
Dr. Cara Christ: (01:23:31)
We have had cases of COVID.
Speaker 5: (01:23:34)
Thank you. Going to go to the board here. One more from Tucson, Lorraine Rivera, AZPM. Lorraine, go ahead.
Lorraine Rivera: (01:23:43)
Hi. Thanks for taking my question. I have two. One of them for Dr. Christ. Are children at any increased risk of their immune systems perhaps losing some of their ability to fight illnesses, given that they haven’t been around each other since March? And then the other question is for, it may be for General McGuire, but it looks like some of the communities with Native American communities are still struggling. If you could give us some understanding as to why they continue to be challenged, given all the resources that have been directed to those areas.
Dr. Cara Christ: (01:24:16)
Sure. So this is Dr. Christ and I can take the first question. So, Oh my goodness, all of a sudden it just left me.
Speaker 5: (01:24:28)
Dr. Cara Christ: (01:24:28)
Oh, the immune systems. Oh my goodness. Okay. I apologize for that. When you look at what kids, so our immune systems are challenged all the time by all of the antigens that you are exposed to on a daily basis. We do tend to see increased illness when kids returned to school. That just is part of what happens. And so we would expect to see that same type of phenomenon. That doesn’t make your immune system react any differently. It’s just that you’re exposed to different antigens.
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:24:59)
General McGuire on the tribal nations.
Maj. Gen Mick McGuire: (01:25:01)
Yep. Thank you for the question. My assessment of what’s happened is if we look at the outbreak in Navajo Nation and the way things have plateaued, it’s as the governor has said many times, it’s not time to declare victory. We find in a myriad of locations where there’s, especially on our tribal nations, 22 of them here in the state, that the nature of multi-generational homes is one of the primary factors for a continued spread. So we appreciate the partnership of the three tribes that we’ve worked with most recently, White Mountain, Apache, Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui. We’ve put resources there. I appreciate your question. We’re going to continue to do a resourcing blitzes. Tohono O’odham has asked for another testing blitz next week, which we’ll support and we continue to try to do that. But again, ultimately, it’s all of us taking seriously the public health advice to try to slow the spread.
Speaker 5: (01:26:03)
Thank you Lorraine. I know there’s more questions but we really have to get going-
Speaker 6: (01:26:05)
I just have one more quick question for the governor.
Speaker 5: (01:26:08)
One question [inaudible 01:26:10].
Speaker 6: (01:26:10)
The follow up here. Governor and the plan ahead here, it says that you want to quote, “Continue relief to County officials and contract tracing to contain the spread.” Maybe explain to me, explain to people watching this, how that’s even going to be effective right now, considering that the turnaround time from labs is 7.5 days. I mean, at that point, contact tracing is almost useless.
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:26:34)
It is, well, first I want to say you’re right. If we don’t have a better turnaround time, that’s why we’ve provided resources to our private providers. We need faster turnaround time. If you go to the two sites that are available right now, you do get a faster turnaround and that’s the best and only way for contact tracing to be effective. And that’s of course what we want.
Speaker 6: (01:27:00)
And obviously you guys are tracking that data because you were able to show that for us today. Can you give us a commitment that you’ll be providing that data on the dashboard moving forward to see if we are improving in that? Because that seems to be a pretty important metric to be looking at that because contract tracing is important in containing the spread and if we’re looking at different benchmarks, different metrics to be reopening schools, maybe that should be available to the public as well.
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:27:26)
We’re going to be talking a lot more and have higher expectations around testing, tracing, and when someone is positive, we want to of course see the isolation as well. I want to say first, thank you very much to superintendent of public instruction, Kathy Hoffman. We have high hopes and expectations for our families, our kids, our teachers for this upcoming school year. It’s going to be an ongoing challenge. And we have put our heads together to put a plan out there that is durable, that is flexible, and that has resources. And we will continue to bring forth information and data along the way so that we can have the safest and most successful school year.
Governor Doug Ducey: (01:28:13)
To do that, the things that we’ve done so far so that we could slow the spread, bring our case count and our positivity heading in the right direction with more to do because I come in here and I’m able to report improving numbers is not cause for a celebration. It’s a cause for evidence that some of the decisions and habits and rigor and discipline that Arizonans are showing is working. And I’m asking you to please continue doing that. The idea of wearing a mask, socially.