PHOENIX — In a week of uncontrolled spread of the pandemic in Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey went on a Phoenix media tour, pushing his talking points on the management of the now year-old outbreak.
He chose not to stop by ABC15. More on that later. Let’s look at some of what insight he did offer.
In that same interview, he urged parents to “put pressure” on school boards to get in-person learning full time. The governor used the show to push what’s become a culture war. He’s frustrated with teachers worried about their health and who dare to say so. He’s been in a Twitter spat with Superintendent of Schools Kathy Hoffman, who is hyper-aware that the state’s own metrics don’t support in-person learning.
Dr. Fauci and I agree the safest place for students to be is in the classroom when community spread is low. Stronger mitigation efforts months ago would have helped preserve in-person learning, but our state made different choices. https://t.co/X9BZpsqQOb pic.twitter.com/717zjav1jK— Kathy Hoffman (@Supt_Hoffman) January 15, 2021
On the television side of things, the governor told 12 News that all the death, all the fear, and all the anxiety, along with the exhausted health care workers, the overcrowded hospitals, the pressure to open schools, the shortage of vaccines, and the dysfunction of the registration process - well, that’s just the way a pandemic operates.
“I am listening to the public health experts, that’s who’s guiding my decisions,” he insisted in a sometimes testy back and forth with anchor Mark Curtis, who pressed him with audience questions on body count and masks and shelter-in-place orders.
Except, he’s only listening to some of what those experts are saying.
The governor is especially selective with the facts when the public health leaders diverge from his often-repeated beliefs: That schools should be fully open to in-person learning no matter that the metrics say otherwise. That mask mandates don’t work and won’t work and aren’t enforceable. That he’s keeping Arizona open for business even if those businesses are super-spreader venues. And, his favorite self-analysis, “The critics can say what they want, but the path I’ve outlined is the right path for Arizona.”
We here at ABC15 would like to ask him for proof of that “right path” claim. We’d like him to answer for this stunning statistic as reported by ABC15’s Mike Pelton:
If 700+ COVID deaths a week (never hit during the Summer) doesn't warrant additional mitigation strategies, is there literally any scenario that @AZDHS and @dougducey would ratchet up mitigation efforts? https://t.co/rJnrP2S0Ip— Mike Pelton (@MikePeltonABC15) January 15, 2021
We’d like to ask why he’s announcing more vaccination sites when the supply isn’t there to inoculate. We’d love to find out what his real motive is in opening public schools. Is it really to help families? Or, is he trying to blunt two political enemies, Superintendent Hoffman and the Arizona Education Association, by positioning them as somehow being anti-children and anti-family. We’d like to find out why he cherry-picks data that supports his arguments while ignoring expert advice from hospital leaders and university modelers who’ve predicted a “humanitarian crisis“ if he doesn’t shut down the state.
We’d like another opportunity to question the state’s pandemic manager, Dr. Cara Christ, the Director of Arizona’s Department of Health Services. We’d like her to answer why she went to court to protect the identity of long term care centers that are COVID hot spots when we now know from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) that “Arizona Nursing Homes are in Crisis.”
We’d like to know her role in a failed attempt last May to fire the state’s university modelers while President Trump campaigned in Phoenix touting pandemic denial. Those modelers, by the way, have been spot on in their predictions of the horrible outcomes we’re seeing now.
Unfortunately, it appears ABC15’s viewers won’t hear our questions and Governor Ducey’s answers in a one-on-one interview.
Since last March, the governor has ignored repeated requests for an interview. Sometimes, his staff offers hope that Ducey will join us, only to say later that “it doesn’t fit his schedule.”
On Tuesday, the governor’s Office did deliver an interview with Dr. Christ as she opened the massive vaccination effort at State Farm Stadium. Afterward, they complained that questions from ABC15’s Kaley O’Kelley were “unfair.” Kaley asked her about the highest rate of infection spread in America, about grading her own performance, about apologizing to the families of the dead. “Unfair.”
Because they believe ABC15 is “unfair,” the governor’s handlers told me he wouldn’t do a one-on-one interview. Apparently, the answers to our questions don’t fit into his talking points. They know we’ll challenge his often repeated statements that “public health experts” guide his decision. That, “We have prioritized lives first and foremost.” That, “We mourn every loss.” That we must rely on “personal responsibility.” That, “I report to the people of Arizona.”
Respectfully, governor, 2,817 of those people died in December alone. That’s pretty unfair. We have some questions, please. Are you going to speak with the ABC15 viewers, or not?
Mark Casey is the News Director at ABC15 Arizona and reports on the station’s commitment to serve our community. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org