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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- During Thursday night's virtual town hall, Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ answered questions from Arizona residents about the coronavirus pandemic. More than 5,000 questions were submitted, but a 1-hour time limit only allotted for a fraction of that.
Ducey, who responded to a majority of the questions, says the next month or two in Arizona are going to be tough ones. The main idea is to reduce the spread and lower the curve. As a result, the governor issued at statewide state-at-home order.
"We look for what the guidance is in Arizona. We are in a different position than every state. And my focus every day was to follow the guidance and make the best possible decision for Arizona," Ducey said.
Ducey believes that the majority of people living in Arizona are listening to the stay-at-home order that was put into effect on March 31. "I didn't use the words shelter-in-place because I believe Arizonans are smart and responsible," he said. "People are listening to the order and that will help slow the spread."
Ducey explained the possible consequences for people who don't listen to the order. "If someone's not listening to the order, law enforcement can suggest that they can begin listening to the order," the governor said. "And if they don't, they're going to have a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is an $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail. And we will enforce that."
Ducey said people who are quarantining or have lost their jobs don't have to pay rent for up to 120 days. Ducey stressed that tenants and those paying mortgages will have the necessary assistance. "If you can't make your mortgage, if you can't pay your rent, you are not going to be evicted," Ducey said. "I put an executive order out there. These proceedings are not going to take place."
The coronavirus pandemic has caused 40% of the working people in Arizona to either lose their jobs or get a pay decrease, Ducey said. For people who aren't in similar predicaments, they are expected to pay their rent.
"If you can't pay, you are not going to lose your apartment or home. If you can pay, you should keep up," said Ducey before emphasizing that he and his team are working with everyone so that no one "falls through the cracks."
Nail & Hair Salons
When trying to slow the spread of coronavirus, Ducey issued orders closing establishments like schools, bars, gyms, movie theaters and sports venues. However, some Arizonans are wondering why nail and hair salons are still allowed to be opened. Ducey said these type of businesses are not covered in the executive order, which follows CDC guidelines.
"We took the guidance from what we saw as best practices in other states to add to Arizona," Ducey said. "Businesses being mentioned here are not inside the order. If we need to update the guidance, we will do that. We will continue to do that. I have concerns for any worker in the state of Arizona. All the rights they had before the emergency declaration, they still have those rights."
What About Schools?
The closing of schools for the rest of the year worries students and parents. In Thursday's town hall, Ducey said that parents and their children will not be penalized, but there may be some work to make up. "Your child is going to graduate. Your child is going to be promoted. We are going to have some work to do though," said Ducey.
For families who lack the resources to teach their children from home, Ducey says they are working on strategies to fix that. "We want to have an equal platform across the state for our students."
Ducey says testing is critical. "We need to ramp up our testing," he said.
Who should get tested? The governor says it is important to prioritize those on the front lines, like doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. "I believe we will be in a place, eventually, where everyone who wants a test will get a test. Today, we have to prioritize."
Dr. Christ says 23,000 people in Arizona have been tested for COVID-19. "So, our [testing] numbers have increased significantly."
When asked whether Arizona could have started testing earlier, Dr. Christ responded: "We were one of the first public health labs to bring testing into our state. So, it took a little bit for our commercial labs, which is normally how most people get tested for any type of medical condition... those get done by the commercial labs. Our commercial labs came on relatively quickly. Issues with the supply chain to get the nose swabs-- that's one of the barriers that we're encountering."