PHOENIX — More than 900 medical providers in Arizona have signed a letter sent to Governor Doug Ducey Monday, urging him to make wearing masks a requirement when in public as coronavirus cases continue to spike across the state.
On Tuesday, the Arizona Department of Health Services announced 2,392 new cases of coronavirus reported in Arizona since Monday, the highest single-day increase the state has seen so far.
The number of reported virus-related deaths increased by 25, from 1,194 on Monday to 1,219 on Tuesday.
On multiple occasions while speaking at press conferences, Governor Ducey has urged people to wear masks when in public. However, when asked about people going to the grocery store and other public places without masks on, Ducey has sidestepped the possibility of mandating them.
The letter, initially signed by 688 health care professionals across Arizona, says that now that the state reopened, many people feel that it is safe to resume normal life, and not wear masks in public. The letter encourages the governor to mandate wearing masks to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
“Please issue a state-wide mandate requiring universal masking in public for those 2 years old and above. There is sufficient, clear, scientific evidence that wearing masks is one way to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and thus would reduce both the wave of severely affected patients requiring ICU and ventilator resources as well as unnecessary deaths,” the letter reads.
Despite its urgency, one of the authors wonders if the Governor really knows what's at stake.
"The only people I saw in that building masked were my husband, my son and me," Dr. Susan Hughes said. Dr. Hughes is one of the authors of the letter and she delivered it to the Governor and ADHS director Dr. Cara Christ. "It doesn't mean other people aren't masked but obviously, public health and wearing a mask and following CDC guidelines are not within what Governor Ducey wants to do."
At a press conference last Thursday, Ducey admitted the percent positive is going in the wrong direction, however, he did not make any policy changes to slow the spread in the state.
A spokesman for the governor said "addressing COVID-19 remains our highest priority. Everyone should wear a face covering when out in public and continue to follow public health guidelines. "
The governor's plan includes expanding a public health education campaign. As well as constant reminders for people to stay home if they are sick, wash your hands and physically distance.
The letter also points to Ducey saying last week that the virus is “not going away” and that it is something “we need to learn to live with.”
After seeing no one in the governor's office wearing a mask, Dr. Hughes considers the governor's actions as not living up to his words.
"I am very concerned when Governor Ducey says we're just going to have to live with COVID-19," Dr. Hughes says. "My response is we can't learn to live with it because people die with COVID-19."
So far Governor Ducey has not responded publicly to either mayor's letter, but his office did acknowledge receiving the letter from the group of healthcare workers.
Below is the full letter sent by 688 medical professionals Monday asking Governor Ducey to mandate masks in public across Arizona:
Dear Governor Ducey,
Since the reopening of Arizona’s economy, our health risk has drastically increased. The sad fact is that nothing has changed regarding COVID-19 since the Stay at Home Executive Order was put into effect on March 31. Since the Executive Order was lifted, many Arizonans believe something has changed, and it is somehow now safe to resume normal life. Sadly, this is far from the truth. There is no vaccine and no treatment for COVID-19, and it is just as contagious now as it was last month or the month before.
We write to urge you: Please issue a state-wide mandate requiring universal masking in public for those 2 years old and above. There is sufficient, clear, scientific evidence that wearing masks is one way to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and thus would reduce both the wave of severely affected patients requiring ICU and ventilator resources as well as unnecessary deaths.
The following references strongly support universal masking:
Our healthcare system is becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19 and we need your help and partnership in mitigating this disease spread. We cannot simply “learn to live with” a disease that is devastating entire communities. We believe that universal mask wearing is ONE very effective and important strategy to continue the fight against COVID-19. Keeping the economy going while maintaining universal masking and social distancing is a win win situation for every member of the community regardless of political views in that it balances economics with public health.
The entire health care community is not the only group of people greatly concerned about protecting our community. Greater Phoenix Leadership is made up of leading Valley CEOs who aim to align leadership and resources at the intersection of the business, education, philanthropy and public policy sectors to improve economic vitality and quality of life. This amazing, well-educated group of business leaders found masking so important they addressed ASU and encouraged mandating masks on campus. ASU is now, for many reasons, requiring all individuals on campus to wear masks.
There are so many reasons this simple act of wearing a mask can help the greater good. A mask decreases harm and protects the community in the same manner as requiring passengers to wear seatbelts in a car, forbidding texting while driving, outlawing jaywalking and requiring life vests on a boat. By wearing masks, we can curtail a huge surge of COVID-19 cases in Arizona and reduce unnecessary mortality in our community.
In addition, the mitigation of COVID-19 in the community will also allow those with other necessary hospital needs to be cared for in a timely manner, adequately and without added risk.
Please stand up and help educate as well as protect those who do not understand just how vital universal masking is at this critical time. Help communicate to all Arizonans that it is out of respect for others, respect for humanity, respect for our great country, respect for our businesses and respect for the American way of life that mandating mask usage for a time period is essential.
Please stand with the frontline healthcare workers who risk their lives to care for COVID-19 patients every day. We encourage you, Governor Ducey, to follow the scientific data that shows that universal masking decreases the spread of COVID-19 and mandate masks in the state of Arizona immediately for individuals 2 y/o and above, while continuing social distancing, in order to not only decrease the number of unnecessary deaths but also allow our businesses to remain open.
The following Board Certified (and Board Eligible) Medical Doctors, Doctors of Osteopathy, Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners:
(The full list of signees for the letter can be seen in the tweet below)
LIST GROWING: make it 908 Arizona medical providers calling on @dougducey to mandate 😷— Nicole Grigg (@NicoleSGrigg) June 17, 2020
😷 are required for @CityofPhoenixAZ employees, @maricopacounty employees, everyone at @AZNationalGuard facilities and @PHXSkyHarbor
See names 👇🏼
Once again thread of names: https://t.co/5XxeCEU7C0 pic.twitter.com/RiF6qngJcz