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Are pre-taped videos doing enough to inform Arizonans on COVID-19?

Ducey Virus Outbreak Arizona
Posted at 6:52 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 23:57:57-05

PHOENIX — Press conferences where reporters can get the community’s questions answered holding important state leaders accountable is a thing of the past -- at least for the Arizona Department of Health Services.

As they’re now relying on pre-taped videos uploaded to YouTube and other social media outlets to inform the community.

It has been two weeks since AZDHS started this way of communication, but if you take a closer look, the videos get from only one to about 3,000 views.

So, is this the best way to reach out to a population of seven million, in a state where coronavirus continues to spread at an alarming rate?

For Kristin Urquiza, whose father died of COVID-19 in June, the answer is no.

“My grandparents wouldn’t have known at all what YouTube was. I think that just underscores how that if we really want to make sure people are staying safe, we must be aggressive and get those communications out to where these people are,” explained Urquiza.

After losing her father, Urquiza became an activist, advocating for better COVID-19 resources for the community. Including pushing for better ways of communication from the government.

“It is a dereliction of duty. That's a major problem. We have over seven million people in the state who need information, they need guidance, they need to know how to make sound decisions,” stated Urquiza.

For others, there’s also a need for information available in different languages.

Karina Ruiz says her biggest concern is the lack of information in Spanish.

“There are a lot of parents that speak Spanish as a main language, so I have not seen enough information. During this pandemic, we need the most updated information as soon as possible and we always rely on TV and radio,” said Ruiz.

ABC15 requested an interview today with the Arizona Department of Health Services Director, Dr. Cara Christ. But a spokesperson told us she wasn’t available, despite speaking to several other media outlets during the day, releasing the following statement:

We have a great number of interview requests and are doing our best to get to as many as possible. Dr. Christ does not have any more availability today, but we will try and find some time soon.”

However, some Arizonans like Urquiza aren’t buying it.

“If Dr. Christ is really concerned with the public health of people in Arizona, she should be out there on the front lines every single day making sure we all have the most updated information possible.”

Even Arizona’s governor, Doug Ducey, is relying mainly on social media to message the public without availability for the press to ask questions.

ABC15 learned yesterday that he left the state for "a couple days away" to celebrate his anniversary as COVID-19 cases are rising and no new actions have been taken to try and slow the spread.

“For the governor to be so brazen, to take time off during the largest public health crisis as a head of our state really underscores where his priorities are, which unfortunately is not to keep Arizona safe,” stated Urquiza.

Meanwhile, Ruiz says she worries about the lack of leadership, especially with the holidays coming up.

“We've seen an increase of cases and with the holidays I’m afraid that people won’t follow social distancing and have big gatherings and to be in a worse position by January.”

ABC15 reached out to the Arizona Department of Health Services asking about the use of YouTube to inform the community about the state’s current situation with Coronavirus.

A spokesperson released the following statement to us:

“These weekly videos are just one way of many ways the Department communicates guidance and information to Arizonans.

In addition to posting the video updates on YouTube and Facebook, they are shared with news outlets around the state, including Spanish-language outlets

that can incorporate them in their coverage, which often amplifies the message to thousands of viewers.

Publishing these video updates provides as many media partners as possible, including those beyond the Phoenix area, the latest information on COVID-19, complemented by a detailed report, also offered to the public through our website, explaining the numbers and trends.”