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Ducey wants COVID testing at airports, re-emphasizes wearing masks

Sky Harbor Airport
Posted at 3:07 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 13:48:29-05

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey and ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ on Wednesday encouraged Arizonans to continue to wear their masks, wash their hands, and avoid large gatherings ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, and also reiterated the restrictions that remain in place for bars, gyms, and restaurants.

Ducey did not issue any further restrictions during his first press briefing since Oct. 29, reemphasizing a statewide mask mandate, which some local leaders, including Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego had asked him to implement. Following his remarks, Gallego tweeted saying his "lack of leadership" was "disappointing."

The governor did, however, announce an emergency measure that would require all schools to implement mask policies on school buses and grounds, tasked Dr. Christ to work with Arizona's three main airports -- Phoenix Sky Harbor, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, and Tucson International -- to offer on-site COVID-19 testing, allocated $25 million to hospitals to boost and support staffing, and extended an executive order for enhanced surveillance of COVID-19 vaccinations.

"The truth is, this has been a long haul. You can’t simplify or underestimate the impact this has had on so many Arizonans. And so when I say, we just aren’t out of the woods quite yet, and we need to redouble our efforts, I know these are not easy asks," Ducey told reporters on Wednesday.

"But, it is our ask today. It's my ask," he said.

Watch the full briefing in the player below.

While he did not go so far as to enact a statewide mask ordinance, Ducey reiterated that 90% of the state is under a local or county mask mandate, and that masks are required in a number of businesses, such as restaurants, bars, gyms, and movie theaters.

He also said more messaging will continue to be put out encouraging people to wear masks across the state and at airports, especially since visitors will be making their way to Arizona for the holidays and winter months.

As for the on-site COVID-19 testing at airports, Gov. Ducey said it would be voluntary and is not required.

"This will allow incomers to get tested immediately with quick turn-around," he said.

Gregory E. Roybal, public information officer at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, said in a statement that the airport has a plan in place to begin offering COVID-19 testing "later this month."

"We haven't heard anything yet and look forward to hearing from Department of Health Services on their plan. We are ready to work with them here at Gateway when they are ready to start," said Ryan Smith, director of communications at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

Tucson Airport said in a news release that it would begin offering COVID-19 testing on Nov. 20.

COVID-19 cases in the state have steadily risen since the end of September, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services online dashboard.

Those hospitalized with COVID-19 or suspected of having COVID-19 are also up, according to ADHS’s website.

A total of 3,206 new COVID-19 cases and 53 related deaths were reported on Wednesday, bringing the state’s cumulative total to 283,102 cases and 6,365 deaths. More than 2.3 million tests have been conducted.

The state’s R-naught number, a number officials have used to indicate whether the virus is spreading or slowing, was estimated to be at 1.11 on Wednesday.

Within the last week, new restrictions were implemented in California, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Washington state, including mask mandates, curfews, and either the closure of or further restrictions on some businesses, like bars, gyms, and restaurants.

Aside from Greenlee County, every county in Arizona, including Maricopa, remains in the “moderate” phase of business reopening, which limits restaurants, bars, and waterparks to 50% capacity and gyms to 25% capacity.

For schools, aside from Greenlee County, every county remains in the “moderate” phase, which recommends hybrid learning, a mix between virtual and in-person.

However, as ABC15 has reported, more districts and schools in the Phoenix area have reported cases and reverted back to virtual learning, either temporarily or for the rest of the semester after seeing positive cases increase.

On Tuesday, ABC News obtained a report from the White House that said Arizona was seeing a “significant” increase in COVID-19 cases and that further efforts were needed to mitigate or slow the spread.