Gov. Doug Ducey finally locates his backbone and closes down Arizona's bars
U-turn ahead, Arizona. Without ever admitting that he blew it, Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday reversed course and shut down parts of Arizona’s economy for a second time.
This, two months to the day after he said, "it would be irresponsible for me to make decisions to reopen with a chance that I would have to come back ... and ask people to do this again."
So now he's asking people to do this again. Specifically, he's closing bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks — all establishments he allowed to reopen in mid-May — in a desperate attempt to slow Arizona’s rampaging coronavirus.
“It is time,” he said on Monday, “for Arizona to act.”
Actually, it was time for Ducey to act in mid-May when he reopened the state and virtually ignored the fact that nightclubs were using a loophole in his orders to pack in the partiers with not a mask in sight or a dime’s worth of distance between them.
It was time for Ducey to act in early June, when Arizona’s coronavirus numbers began spiking and hospital beds began filling.
It was time for Ducey to act last week when the healthcare community was sounding the alarm. When the Republican governors of two other spiking states, Texas and Florida, were taking action to slow the spread of the virus in their states.
Ducey, meanwhile, held a press conference last Thursday to announce he was doing …. nothing.
Now four days later — faced with the increasingly chilling possibility that Arizona’s doctors may soon have to start making decisions on who gets treatment and who does not — Ducey has finally taken some action.
He’s paused the operation of bars, gyms, movie theaters, water parks and tubing on Arizona’s rivers for 30 days. He’s also re-instituting limits on mass gatherings — unless, of course, it’s for a political rally — and he’s pushing back the opening of Arizona’s schools by roughly two weeks, to Aug. 17.
“When in doubt, we’re going to err on the side of protecting lives,” he said.
Except, of course, when he hasn’t.
For the last month, while Ducey has been in denial while the coronavirus has been spreading at an alarming rate. While testing for the highly contagious virus has increased 77% over the last three weeks, COVID-19 cases have increased by 169%.
When Ducey lifted his stay-at-home order on May 15, 8.5% of Arizonans tested for COVID-19 had the virus. By last week, that number had jumped to 20%.
Since Memorial Day, Arizona’s hospitalization rate has grown faster than any state in the country to the point where it now threatens to swamp our health-care system.
Ducey’s decision to finally take some action came after a weekend in which the state once again smashed its single-day record COVID-19 -- a weekend when people flocked to the Salt River to go tubing, many of them apparently having forgotten their masks or what six feet of social distance looks like.
Yet he refuses to mandate that masks be worn statewide, when social distancing is not possible.
Ducey talks about “the brutal facts of our present situation”.
Yet he dodges questions about whether he would again order Arizonans to stay home.
Ducey pleads with people to be responsible.
Yet there is evidence every day that far too many people are ignoring his advice.
It’s time for Ducey to get tough and tell Arizona what it so desperately needs to hear:
That if we don’t individually take immediate action ourselves to get this thing under control, then he’s going to be forced do it for us by re-instituting a lockdown.
That’s something nobody wants to see.
But you cannot and he should not avoid the increasingly real prospect that that is where we’re headed if something doesn’t drastically change in this state.
As Ducey said on Monday, "Lord only knows what this virus holds for us in the fall."
I don’t envy Gov. Ducey. His is not an easy job at any time and in this moment, the job is more difficult than ever; more difficult, perhaps, than any Arizona governor has ever faced.
And yet it's nowhere near as tough as the job that awaits doctors, the ones who as of Monday are now operating under Arizona's "Crisis Standards of Care Plan."
The ones who soon may be forced, literally, to decide who will live and who will die.
Reach Roberts at email@example.com.