PHOENIX — In a statewide briefing Thursday, Governor Doug Ducey acknowledged that the pandemic has created an intensely divided Arizona. There are angry and loud disagreements over education, opening businesses, data, and individual rights. Every day the divisions play out in demonstrations, news conferences, lawsuits, and passionate arguments.
“Well, I want to acknowledge that I think it’s accurate that people are very divided on a number of fronts,” said Ducey during what has become his weekly status update on COVID 19.
Education has become Exhibit A in a divided state. Demands for educators to go back into schools and teach in person are competing with demands for schools to stay closed until it’s completely safe. Governor Ducey said he’s trying to talk everyone through their differences.
“I work with teachers, I work with superintendents, I work with principals, we’ll continue to do that,” he said.
Beyond education, business owners and workers are putting pressure on the governor to let them all reopen — even with the state benchmarks not being met. The governor’s remedy for getting everyone on the same page: “What we would try and do from a unifying message is that we’re going to follow science here. We’re going to focus on health and safety.”
“Follow the science” isn’t the message coming from many of the governor’s conservative allies, including President Donald Trump, for whom he campaigned in Yuma this week. The President has repeatedly told reporters the threat is overblown and that the nation needs to get back to pre-COVID normal. He’s also repeatedly praised Ducey’s performance managing the pandemic.
For Arizona to follow the science, the governor and his public health team must analyze the state’s COVID statistics. This week we learned the key metric to reopening schools and businesses may be incomplete. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has decided not to count all test results, raising questions about the accuracy of the state’s percentage of positive tests. Still, the governor said the numbers he sees are looking better.
“What I’m here today talking to you about is the strength of that data, and that data puts us in a different position today than we were four weeks ago,” he countered to questions about Arizona Department of Health Services modelling.
So with Arizonans divided, the governor was asked if he had a message of unity. He responded with what has been central in the argument over whether the pandemic is deadly or just a bad cold: wearing a mask.
“My message for unity is let’s wear a mask, lets wash our hands, and let’s be physically distant,” said Ducey.