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Governor balancing re-opening the economy and safety, as COVID-19 testing increases

Posted at 10:23 PM, Apr 14, 2020

Arizona still does not have widespread testing, or enough tests for everyone who thinks they may have COVID-19. You still have to meet specific criteria just to get a test.

Emergency rooms have even been sending patients home, who likely have coronavirus, because they are conserving tests for people admitted to the hospital.

"We need additional testing in Arizona," said Governor Doug Ducey. "And every governor wants more."

Some good news though, on the testing front -- Arizona is one of just seven states where Walgreens will open multiple testing sites.

The locations have not been decided yet. But soon roughly 6,000 Arizonans will be able to get a drive-thru COVID-19 test, according to the company’s estimates.

While Walgreens and the federal government's 15 rapid testing machines are helping identify people currently infected.

The University of Arizona is assisting with pinpointing who was infected -- by making "250,000 of these anti-body tests available for Arizonans, starting with our frontline medical personnel and first responders," said Gov. Ducey.

The anti-body tests are important for "identifying community exposure."

University President, and former cardiology surgeon, Robert Robbins, said the anti-body tests will also help with "potentially inferring immunity."

"We can't guarantee you'll have immunity but we need to get the data," said Robbins.

Health officials have been gathering more data every day. Dr. Cara Christ sharing Tuesday that Arizona's currently in good shape when it comes to our number of ICU beds and ventilators.

"COVID patients account for less than 10 percent of the total inpatient beds each day," said Christ.

After ABC15 has pressed for weeks about more transparency leaders say they will release the models, which predict our state's peak hospitalizations and death.

"So it should be in the next day or two. We will be sharing that and all the data that goes along with that," said Dr. Christ.

Something that will take longer than data gathering is restarting the economy. Governor Ducey says he wants things to return to normal "as soon as possible...and as safely as possible."

As April 30 approaches, he says he is constantly thinking about whether or not to end, extend or modify his existing closures and executive orders.

"As we will get closer to that date we will be tracking even more closely the data and continuing to work with public health officials on what comes next," said Ducey.

The governor also emphatic that Arizona will make its decisions independent of other states and even President Trump. He was reluctant and combative when answering the question about who will make the final call about re-opening Arizona, him or the president. Ultimately, Governor Ducey said he is the decision-maker.

"Well I’m going to make the best decision for Arizona. So there's your answer," said a fired-up Ducey, who initially tried to dodge the question.

A huge boost to Arizona's economy would be the prospect of Major League Baseball playing all its games in state 48.

"I have had discussions with the commissioner," said Ducey. "Arizona is very open-minded to hosting whatever Major League Baseball would like from the state...We have the facilities here, and the hotel space that is here."

Ducey made it apparent, the agreement depends on Arizona being confident the games could be held safely. It would also require a ton of buy-in from all the teams and players.

Spring training was cut short, and Arizona's tourism industry has been particularly devastated.

In March alone, Arizona lost more than a billion dollars in visitor spending. More than 40 percent of Arizona hospitality and tourism workers have been laid off or furloughed -- more than 75,000 men and women.

The Arizona Commerce Authority and Arizona Office of Tourism have created a website for people without a job and looking for work: arizonatourismjobs.com -- it is updated daily, in English and Spanish, with new job opportunities.