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Ducey lists 'essential services' in case he eventually issues stay-at-home order
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Ducey lists 'essential services' in case he eventually issues stay-at-home order

From the Tucson-area coronavirus coverage from January to March: Nearly 1,300 cases in Arizona, stay-at-home order series
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Editor's note: With our coronavirus coverage, the Star is not trying to alarm the public but to provide up-to-date information so you can make educated decisions about your health. Because of this, we’ve made all coverage related to COVID-19 free. Help us continue this important work by subscribing to the StarClick here to see the latest coronavirus updates in Southern Arizona.  

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey has prepared a list of “essential services” in case he decides to order everyone who doesn’t fit into that category to stay home due to COVID-19.

He said Monday that he would not “at this time” follow the lead of counterparts in other states who have implemented “shelter-in-place” directives. He said the health experts he has talked to don’t believe that’s necessary.

“I’m working with guidance from CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the Department of Health Services,” Ducey said. “That’s been guiding Arizona’s direction.”

He added, “As I travel around the state it’s obvious that citizens around the state already are staying at home and acting responsibly. There’s empty streets and empty sidewalks and traffic-free highways.”

Ducey acknowledged that, in preparing the essential services list, he is setting the stage for who will be governed by such an order should he decide it becomes necessary here.

“We are watching what’s happening around the country,” Ducey said, describing the list as a “proactive and administrative step.”

He said it will let individuals and their employers know what to expect.

“It’s to provide clarity,” he said. “It’s so that people in these situations can plan ahead. We’re going to hope for the best but we’re going to prepare for eventual escalation of this.”

Ducey said the situation will get worse before it gets better, mentioning the deaths in Arizona so far.

“It’s a sobering indication of what we will likely continue to face,” he said. “The sad reality is, just like the rest of the country, we expect more deaths. And as we work to increase testing capacity, we expect more confirmed cases.”

State Health Director Cara Christ said her department also is preparing for what happens next.

One particular issue, she said, is the state now has 16,905 licensed hospital beds and 1,532 intensive care beds.

“The estimated need is rapidly evolving as we gather new data, with a potential surge of COVID-19 patients above and beyond our current capacity of beds,” Christ said.

She said some of that could be taken care of by having hospitals use triage tents outside of emergency rooms and by converting recovery rooms and other unused portions of buildings.

Christ also said the state is looking at reopening closed facilities and converting ambulatory care centers — essentially out-patient facilities — into hospitals.

There’s also a proposal to use the Arizona Coliseum in Phoenix “to provide step-down or recovery care to those who are ready to leave the hospital but unable to go home.”

Christ said she is working with federal agencies to secure three field hospitals, two for Phoenix and one for Tucson.

The governor separately ordered new procedures to require hospitals and private laboratories to provide more information on the testing they are doing.

Those operations already report when there is a positive test. But what is not known is how many tests they have performed.

The same order requires hospitals to file daily reports on staff resources and availability of equipment like ventilators, personal protective equipment and medical supplies.

Ducey also said he has no plans ready to unveil on what he intends to do about the economic havoc that COVID-19 has placed on individuals and companies.

“We care about the people that are affected and living paycheck to paycheck,” he said.

He said there is a 14-page “economic protection plan” being worked out, promising details in “the very near future.” But he said that’s not where his attention is right now.

“The priority and focus first and foremost has been public health,” Ducey said.

Ducey noted that the $11.8 billion contingency spending plan for the coming year just approved by the Legislature provides $50 million for him to use at his discretion for economic relief.

“It’s our intention that we will be stretching and strengthening the safety net of the state,” he said, adding he is “hopeful” that Congress will enact a plan.

Some of the economic issues remain firmly within control of the states.

Arizona limits weekly jobless benefits to $240 a week, a figure that has not been altered since 2004. Only Mississippi has a lower cap.

Ducey provided no answer to the question of whether he will seek to seek to increase that figure, saying only he wants to focus on “the most vulnerable.”

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Gov. Doug Ducey said Sunday he is allocating $2 million from the Department of Economic Security for the state to contract with the Crisis Response Center to run a 2-1-1 service to provide information on COVID-19.

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