PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- On Wednesday, Governor Doug Ducey and state officials held a press conference for the first time in weeks to address the rise of coronavirus cases in Arizona.
Dr. Cara Christ with the Arizona Department of Health Services started off the conference stating that the state was seeing metrics heading in the wrong direction, just one week out from Thanksgiving. She urged Arizonans to wear a mask any time people will be around others outside of their household, especially during the upcoming holidays.
Dr. Christ urged people to move Thanksgiving celebrations outside, wear a mask, minimize the number of guests, physically distance, wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, avoid self-serve or buffets, and to celebrate virtually if possibly in order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Dr. Christ said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new studies last week indicating that it is believed now that masks protect people far more than previously thought.
"Arizona and our nation remain in a public health emergency, and getting back to normal is not in the cards right now," said Governor Ducey.
Governor Ducey went on to address what he called "two extreme and distinct camps" in regards to how some people are interpreting COVID-19 in Arizona. He said while one camp wants a full, complete lockdown, the other camp believes "it is a hoax" and not real.
"Most of the public isn't part of either camp. And by the way, neither am I." Ducey said.
"Masks work. Please wear them. They are required nearly everywhere outside your home," Gov. Ducey said. "We know that masks protect others. The new CDC study shows masks protects others, but it also protects you."
Nearly 90 percent of the state is currently under mandates requiring masks. Gyms, movie theaters, and restaurants are all under specific guidelines mitigating the number of people in a business, social distancing, and mask enforcement.
The governor announced testing sites and health campaigns at several Arizona airports, including Sky Harbor, Mesa-Gateway, and Tucson International. A spokesperson for Sky Harbor said the airport has a plan in place to begin COVID-19 testing through one of its concessionaires later this month with more details to be released within the week.
A spokesperson for Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport said they were not aware of the plan but look forward to working with Department of Health Services.
According to AZDHS, Dr. Christ will work with the airports to launch testing sites, allowing incomers to get tested immediately with quick turnaround for results. The department will also work with airports to establish inbound messaging around the importance of wearing masks and information on where travelers can get tested.
What is the plan for schools and vaccines?
Gov. Ducey addressed schools remaining open in Arizona. While he stated he believes it's important schools remain open, Gov. Ducey indicated new guidelines would be released by AZDHS to help keep students and staff at schools safe. The guidelines were not explained during the news conference.
School districts in the Phoenix-area are starting to alter in-person learning plans as COVID-19 cases grow in Maricopa County.
Gov. Ducey also an investment of $25 million to help boost staffing and resources for hospitals in their preparation for new spikes in hospitalizations.
“For eight months, Arizonans have acted responsibly and safely to protect others and fight COVID-19 — and today’s efforts build on that. The $25 million for frontline workers in our hospitals will help ensure we have plenty of staffing as numbers rise, and it will support the medical professionals working long hours to care for Arizonans," said Gov. Ducey. "Our additional safety measures will help keep Arizonans safe as we enter the winter months and snowbirds migrate to our state. Thank you to the families, individuals, businesses, organizations, community leaders, school leaders and more who continue to adapt to follow health guidance and protect fellow Arizonans.”
The funding is set to pay for higher staff costs due to current demand, and allow hospitals to reward their existing direct care employees with bonuses for their dedication. The funding will come from part of the federal CARES Act.
Gov. Ducey also commented on the recent success of two COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, and their 90+ percentage of effectiveness.
"The news of these vaccines is positive and optimistic. And I commit to you Arizona will be ready," Gov. Ducey said, indicating there would be a plan to distribute vaccines statewide.
The state's vaccine task force is developing a plan to ensure the effective distribution of COVID-19 vaccines once they are publicly available. Governor Ducey issued an executive order to extend the Enhanced Surveillance Advisory to collect information on vaccinations.
The surveillance advisory helps make sure all Arizonans who want a vaccine will get the appropriate follow-up doses at the correct times. It also helps the state identify and support vulnerable populations and underserved communities.
A moment of silence was held for the people who have died from COVID-19 in the state prior to the Governor taking questions from members of media organizations.
Does Ducey think Biden won Arizona?
When asked about election integrity in Arizona, Gov. Ducey said before the election he had confidence in Arizona's election process and that the state was a leader in how it conducts them. He added that he believes every vote should be counted, and all legal claims should be addressed. Gov. Ducey said he would accept election results after "everyone has their day in court."
When a reporter asked about the threats against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Gov. Ducey immediately denounced the threats and said they were completely unacceptable.
"Our office is working with Secretary Katie Hobbs for any additional DPS resources to protect her," Governor Ducey said.
The governor said his team will continue to work with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and said no one from President-Elect Biden's task force team has reached out. He said state leaders will continue to work with federal agencies to get what Arizona needs.